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Healthy Fat Supplementation in Infant Formula enhances Development

Updated on February 11, 2016

Long chain Polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCP/ LCPUFA) are a type of unsaturated fatty acid that play a structural and functional role in development. Arachidonic Acid (AA), an Omega-6 fatty acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid, are two common LCPs naturally found in breast milk1. Functionally they play a role in many processes including neural development and gene expression.2
They are also found in the cell membrane, helping maintain its structure.2

DHA is vital for Baby Brain Development Prenatal and Postpartum

What are LCPs

LCPs contribute significantly to the fatty acids that occupy cell membranes of the brain and blood vessels3, 80% of them grow in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy. Hence babies born prematurely are at higher risk to cell and tissue damage.4

Risks of Insufficient LCPs

Without adequate LCPs, consequences can also include a lower level of visual acuity and language skills, including; expressive language and speed of processing information.5 Highlighting the potential benefits of LCPs supplementation in infant formula. Inclusion of LCPs in infant formula has long been considered a controversial topic. Studies have failed to demonstrate significant differences in development between breast fed infants and those supplemented with LCP-rich formula6. However, significant differences have been demonstrated in supplementation when infant formula is the sole source of diet6. This suggests that benefits resulting from breast feeding are associated with LCP presence in breast milk.

In absence of breast feeding, the right infant formula can help supply nutrients vital for development
In absence of breast feeding, the right infant formula can help supply nutrients vital for development | Source

Benefits of Lcp Supplementation

Infants with additional supplementation demonstrated higher word pairing learning score and verbal IQ.6 Other studies have indicated differences later in life between infants that had LCP supplemented formula or infant formula without LCPs. At 6 years of age, infants with LCP supplementation demonstrated faster processing of information, whilst there were no significant differences in IQ and attention control.6 Although, these results were demonstrated in studies that involved smaller groups, they imply associated benefits with LCP supplementation. Benefits have been found to extend beyond cognitive development, with decreased upper respiratory infections and allergies at 3 years of age when DHA and AA were supplemented in infant formula7. Additionally at age 5, supplementation was found to greatly reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications later in life..8

AA and DHA supplementation Is beneficial for development when supplemented in infant formula. Mothers relying solely on infant formula should take this carefully in consideration when choosing the correct formula for their baby..

Benefits of LCP supplementation in Infant Formula

Higher Level
Higher Level
Lower Level
↑ Visual Acuity
↑ Verbal IQ & processing of info
↓ Respiratory Infections
↑ Language Skills
↑ Word Pair Learning Score
↓ Cardiovascular Complications

AA and DHA supplementation Is beneficial for development when supplemented in infant formula. Mothers relying solely on infant formula should take this carefully in consideration when choosing the correct formula for their baby.



1. Agostoni C. Role of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in the first year of life. Journal Of Pediatric Gastroenterology And Nutrition. 2008. 47: 41-44.

2.Krešic´ G, Dujmovic´ M, Mandic´ M, Mrduljaš N. Breast milk: fatty acid composition and maternal diet. Croatian Diary Union(2013), 63(3): 158-171.

3.Crawford M, Costeloe K, Ghebremeskel K, Phylactos A. The inadequacy of the essential fatty acid content of present preterm feeds. European Journal Of Pediatrics. Supplement [serial on the Internet]. (1998, Dec), [cited April 11, 2014]; 157S23-S27. Available from: Academic Search Complete

4.Tai EK, Wang XB, Chen Z. An update on adding docosahexanoix Acid (DHA) and Arachidonic acid (AA) to baby formula. Food Funct. 2013, Oct 1; 4:1767-1775.

5.Mulder K, King D, Innis S. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Deficiency in Infants before Birth Identified Using a Randomized Trial of Maternal DHA Supplementation in Pregnancy. Plos ONE. 2014 Jan, 9(1): 1-10.

6.Keim S, Daniels J, Siega-Riz A, Herring A, Dole N, Scheidt P. Breastfeeding and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid intake in the first 4 post-natal months and infant cognitive development: An observational study. Maternal And Child Nutrition 2012 Oct 1; 8(4): 471-482.

7. Birch E, Castañeda Y, Couch J, Khoury J, Bean J, Scalabrin D, et al. The Impact of Early Nutrition on Incidence of Allergic Manifestations and Common Respiratory Illnesses in Children. Journal Of Pediatrics. 2010 June; 156(6): 902-906.

8. Forsyth J, Willatts P, Agostoni C, Bissenden J, Casaer P, Boehm G. Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in infant formula and blood pressure in later childhood: follow up of a randomized controlled trial. BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.) 2003, May 3. 326(7396): 953.


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