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Acta Paediatr. 2004 Jun;93(6):734-8.

Neural maturation of breastfed and formula-fed infants.

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Department of Neurology, Faculty of Medicine, Assiut University Hospital, Assiut, Egypt.



Human milk provides infants with a full complement of all polyunsaturated fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA). Formula milks only contain the precursors of DHA, AA and linoleic acid, and hence formula-fed infants must synthesize their own DHA and AA.


To evaluate the effect of feeding--whether breastfeeding or formula-feeding--in early infancy upon subsequent neurodevelopment and achievement of optimum brain function.


The study included 53 normal, healthy infants (30 exclusively breastfed infants and 23 exclusively formula-fed infants) at the age of 1 y (+/-1 mo). Each infant was subjected to a full physical and neurological examination together with neurophysiological studies including flash visual evoked potential (FVEP), brainstem auditory evoked potential (BAEP) and somatosensory evoked potential (SSEP).


There was significant prolongation of P100 wave latency of FVEP in formula-fed infants, together with significant prolongation of absolute latency of waves I, III and V of BAEP in formula-fed infants compared with breastfed infants. There was significant prolongation in inter-peak latencies between cortical and Erb's components in formula-fed infants compared with breastfed infants.


We can conclude that VEP, BAEP and SSEP are more mature in breastfed infants relative to formula-fed infants at 1 y of age, and thus breast milk helps earlier development and maturation of some aspects of the nervous system than milk formulas.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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