Formula milk `can set back babies'

BABIES MAY suffer early impairment of their intelligence if, for their first four months, they are fed infant formula that lacks an ingredient found in breast milk, say British scientists.

The research, by Dundee University team, indicates that infants who are not breast fed might need supplements of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA). One source would be the old favourite, cod liver oil - which is particularly rich in such acids.

Many commercial infant formulas do not contain LCPUFA, according to Dr Peter Willatts, the psychologist at Dundee who led the research, published tomorrow in The Lancet.

LCPUFA, that occur in foods such as fish oils, eggs and vegetable oils, are known to be important for visual and brain development: rats brought up on a diet which lacks the necessary components for their bodies to make LCPUFA, have learning impairments.

However, although those fatty acids are known to be present in breast milk, they have been omitted from almost all infant formul as it was thought babies could synthesize enough from fatty acids already in the body. The few feeding formul that include these fatty acids say so in accompanying leaflets.

Dr Willatts led a research team that tested the effect of including or excluding LCPUFA on 44 infants. From birth, 21 were given LCPUFA while the rest got a formula without it, until both were four months, when they were weaned. At 10 months their thinking was assessed, using a three-step problem which they had to solve to find and retrieve a hidden toy.

Dr Willatts' team found the LCPUFA babies scored significantly higher. One reason may be that accumulating LCPUFA in the cell membranes of the central nervous system speeds up information processing.

"People have been arguing about whether formula should contain LCPUFA for about 20 years," said Dr Willatts yesterday. "But it's only in the past 10 years that proper research has been carried out.

"There were some early suggestions from the United States that including it could lead to language problems, but we didn't find that in our tests."

By the time infants are about six months old and eating solids, babies can synthesize the fatty acids from their foods.

"We don't know what the long-term effects could be," he said. "It may be that this is just a short-term gain." He is continuing the study with children up to the age of five, but says it could take "a couple of years" for the results to emerge.

As for the cod liver oil as a source of LCPUFA, Dr Willatts says: "It's revolting, but it might turn out that this really is one good reason for feeding it to your child."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine