Researchers at the University of Kansas say fatty acids added to baby formula produce lasting gains in intelligence and performance.
Infant formula has been enriched with fatty acids since 2001, based in part on research done by University of Kansas scientists John Colombo and Susan Carlson. The new findings by Colombo and Carlson are based on 81 babies who were tested every six months over a span of six years.
Colombo says infants were fed formula containing the fatty acids DHA and ARA until they reached their first birthday.
"We saw persistent benefits that lasted out from three to six years of age," says Colombo. "So, it’s a long-term, lasting, cognitive benefit that extended well past the time when we stopped feeding, and that hasn’t really been documented before."
Colombo says the gains were in what’s known as executive function—the ability to plan and carry out actions—as well as adaptability and language skills. The babies were divided into four groups—one receiving a relatively small dose of DHA and ARA, one with a medium dose, and one with a larger dose. A control group did not receive the fatty acids. Colombo says the small dose produced the best results.