DHA Omega-3 Improves Visual Acuity in Infants
Birch, EE et al., Am. J. Clinical Nutr., 91: 848-859 , 2010
Retina Foundation of the Southwest, Dallas, TX ,USA
Published studies in the literature have indicated a beneficial effect of having higher levels of DHA omega-3 in either breast milk or infant formula in some but not all studies in term infants with respect to cognitive performance and visual acuity (measured by sensitive electrophysiologic assessments). Such studies using infant formula have often compared a formula with 0.32-0.35 % of milk fat as DHA versus formula devoid of DHA.
The present study randomized 343 infants (enrolled at 1-9 days of age) to one of 4 groups (infant formula containing 0.00, 0.32, 0.64, or 0.96 % by weight of milk fat as DHA) for 12 months of feeding. Visual acuity measurements were performed by visual evoked potentials in the infants who completed the 12-month primary outcome examination. Infants fed the DHA-containing formula performed significantly better than those on the DHA-deficient formula. Increasing the DHA levels above 0.32 % (up to 0.96 %) did not enhance the improved visual acuity. The authors concluded that ‘DHA supplementation of infant formula at 0.32% of total fatty acids improves visual acuity’.
Dr. Holub's Comments:
It remains to be seen if increasing the levels of DHA in breast milk (above approx. 0.32 % of fat) via increasing DHA intakes by the mother may provide any added cognitive or visual enhancements to the infant or child on long-term follow-up. There is some published evidence in the peer-reviewed literature to indicate that the psychomotor development index (PDI) at 30 mos. of age in the young child was significantly better if the mother provided a breast milk to the term infant with approx. 0.33 % of the milk fat as DHA as compared to only 0.20 %. The 0.96 % of milk fat as DHA as used in one of the 4 groups in the present study is very close to DHA levels amongst lactating Japanese women.