Infant formula is a highly emotive area. While it is agreed that breastfeeding is best, formulas are indispensable in cases where mothers are unable to feed their children - be it for health or logistical reasons. Mothers' desire to give their children the best possible start in life means that there is scope for fortification.
While omega-3s are already used in infant formula, there is limited data on how this affects the long-term growth of the child, according to scientists from the University of Kansas Medical Center and the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center.
New data of children raised on formula at birth and then followed up to the age of six indicated that there are no adverse effects on child growth. The findings are published in the journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids.
“If anything, they suggest that [Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids] LCPUFA could have positive effects on stature without negative effects on weight status; and that LCPUFA could mitigate lower stature and higher BMI associated with maternal smoking, particularly in boys,” wrote the researchers, led by Susan Carlson, PhD, AJ Rice Professor of Nutrition at KU Medical Center
Sixty-nine infants were included the study; 59 were put in the LCPUFA-supplemented formula group and 15 into the control formula group. Formula (provided by Mead Johnson Nutrition) was used for the first 12 months of life, and they varied only in LCPUFA content.
By following the children up to the age of six, the researchers were able to show that children in the LCPUFA-supplemented formula group had higher length-/stature-/and weight-for-age percentiles, compared to the control group.
As could be expected, children of mothers who smoked were smaller (reduced length/stature), independent of LCPUFA effects. On the other hand, the children of smoking mothers had higher BMI.
“Although these results indicate children fed LCPUFA are larger, they suggest that their weight and stature growth is proportional; i.e., that LCPUFA does not predispose them to be overweight. Males compared to females had a greater increase in stature with LCPUFA supplementation,” they wrote.
“Maternal smoking likely modifies the effects of LCPUFA supplementation on growth and should be considered as a stratifying variable in future studies of growth and body composition,” they concluded.
Source: Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2015.04.001
“Maternal long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in infancy increases length- and weight-for-age but not BMI to 6 years when controlling for effects of maternal smoking”
Authors: L.M. Currie, E.A. Tolley, J.M. Thodosoff, E.H. Kerling, D.K. Sullivan, J. Colombo, S.E. Carlson