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Lipids. 1996 Mar;31 Suppl:S177-81.

Effect of dietary docosahexaenoic acid on brain composition and neural function in term infants.

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Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Flinders Medical Centre, Adelaide, Australia.


There is a need to determine whether there is a dietary requirement for docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) by term infants to achieve their full developmental potential. Studies of brain fatty acid composition demonstrated that infants who were breast fed had greater levels of cerebral cortex DHA than did infants who were formula fed, suggesting that DHA in the cerebrum is dependent on a supply in the diet. Some physiological studies reported that electrophysiological and behavioral assessments of visual function were improved in breast-fed infants relative to those fed formula and that this was related to the length of breast feeding. While some randomized studies of DHA supplementation of infant formula to term infants demonstrated that the visual function of formula-fed infants could be improved to breast-fed levels by adding DHA to formula, others failed to demonstrate an effect. Variations in dietary treatments and methods of assessment make comparison of the studies difficult. Further work is necessary to rigorously establish if there are long-term benefits of dietary DHA to the term infant.

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