There is no clear evidence that infant formulas and prenatal nutritional supplements containing the so-called “brain nourishing” omega-3 fatty acid supplement called DHA improves infant brain health, according to a systematic review of studies published by the Cochrane Collaboration.
DHA appears to play a leading role in over-the-counter infant formulas and sits alongside folic acid in many prenatal vitamins for expectant and new moms. DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, a nutrient found mostly in fish and fish oil, was found essentially ineffective by the study. It didn’t boost brain heath, nor did it cause harm.
The findings are consistent with a previous study that looked at the effects of omega-3 supplements in pregnant women and their offspring, which was recently published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
DHA naturally accumulates in the brain and the retina of the eye of an infant during pregnancy and the first few years of life and plays a role in neural and vision development. It is found in breast milk in varying concentrations.
Studies conducted in the 1990s found that infants who were fed formula had lower levels of brain DHA than babies who were breast fed, which prompted formula manufacturers to add DHA to improve cognitive and vision development. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved this addition in 2002. Since then, many infant formulas and prenatal vitamins contain DHA.
Getting DHA naturally through a mother’s consumption of foods rich in DHA is the best option, doctors say. And while the benefits of the supplement in baby formula cannot be definitively ruled out, there is room for caution considering DHA can cause minor side effects, such as nausea, intestinal gas, bruising, and prolonged bleeding.
Source: NY Times