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DHA-enhanced formula 'boosts babies cognition'

15th September 2009

Babies' cognitive abilities can be boosted by docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) even if they are not breastfed, according to new research.

The fatty acid DHA, which occurs naturally in breast milk, is widely believed to boost infants' cognitive abilities.

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the Retina Foundation of the Southwest have indicated that the same effects can be achieved using DHA-supplemented formula.

The research, which is published in the journal Child Development, is based on the study of 229 infants who were fed breast milk or different types of formula and then given a problem-solving test at nine months old.

Scientists found that children who received the DHA-supplemented formula were more likely to complete the task or showed more intentional behaviours that allowed them to solve it.

However, lead author of the study James Drover indicated that there remains 'no clear consensus on whether infant formula should be supplemented with DHA'.

He said: 'However, our results clearly suggest that feeding infants formula supplemented with high concentrations of DHA provides beneficial effects on cognitive development.'

Recent research by scientists at the University of Southampton indicated that children who are breastfed for longer had a lower fat mass that could not be explained by family background.

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