New Benefits of Fatty Acids for Mental Development

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Creative Commons License photo credit: theinvinciblemom

You probably well know by now that getting enough of the right kind of fatty acids during pregnancy and when you’re breastfeeding is important to your baby’s health. Researchers have made a discovery this month that there may be even more benefit than previously expected.

In this study, premature baby girls were given formula that contained a specific kind of fatty acid. The evidence from this study suggests that these children could expect higher reading and spelling skills by the time they hit age 10.

The study also suggested some other interesting results. For example, babies that were fed only formula and no breast milk didn’t do as well in testing as those children who were breastfed but were given supplemental formula containing the fatty acids did better, as well.

This study is the first of its kind in that no previous study has looked at how supplemented formula would benefit children in later years.

Today, many formulas contain the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that babies need for growth and development: DHA and ARA. These fatty acids are found in breast milk, but they’ve traditionally been absent from conventional formula.

These are thought to play an essential role in brain development and growth, particularly during baby’s first year.

This is an important study regarding formula. There’s been plenty of research that shows that breastfed babies have higher IQs on average than bottle-fed. This suggests that some of the gap may be able to be overcome by including these fatty acids in formula.

A second study looked at the fatty acids in breast milk, and produced similar results. How much babies were breastfed apparently had a corresponding impact on cognitive ability and mental development.

It will be interesting to see as time goes on what results other studies are likely to produce. While breastfeeding is a personal choice, there are instances in which a woman may not be able to provide that benefit to her baby. It would be nice to know that there is a formula option that will make up the difference for women who bottle-feed.

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