Are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids essential nutrients in infancy?
We investigated whether the disparity in neural maturation between breastfed and formula-fed term infants could be corrected by the addition of fish oil, a source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6 omega 3), to infant formula. Healthy, term infants were randomised at birth to receive either a supplemented or placebo formula if their mothers had chosen to bottle feed. Breastfed term infants were enrolled as a reference group. Infant erythrocyte fatty acids and anthropometry were assessed on day 5 and at 6, 16, and 30 weeks of age. Visual evoked potential (VEP) acuity was determined at 16 and 30 weeks. VEP acuities of breastfed and supplemented-formula-fed infants were better than those of placebo-formula-fed infants at both 16 and 30 weeks of age (p < 0.001 and p < 0.01). Erythrocyte DHA in breastfed and supplemented-formula-fed infants was maintained near birth levels throughout the 30-week study period but fell in placebo-formula-fed infants (p < 0.001). Erythrocyte DHA was the only f