FRIDAY, Dec. 21 (HealthDay News) -- A new review of studies finds that supplementing infant formula with omega-3 fatty acids in an effort to strengthen babies' eyesight does appear to benefit early vision development.
However, experts note that breast-fed babies already take in omega-3s naturally from their mothers' milk.
Dr. Michael Bloch, an assistant professor at the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, Conn., and colleagues analyzed 19 randomized, controlled trials on nearly 2,000 infants aged 1 year and under. A randomized, controlled study is one in which people are randomly assigned to different groups: one group receives the treatment and the other does not receive the treatment (the "control" group).
"As best we can measure, [the supplementation] seems to help visual development," Bloch concluded.
The study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is published online Dec. 17 and in the January print issue of Pediatrics.
Marion Nestle, a distinguished professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, who was not involved with the new study, explained how omega-3 supplementation in formula came to be.
"Formula companies fought hard to get the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to allow omega-3s in infant formula so they could use it for marketing -- and raise prices," Nestle said. "Now all infant formulas carry it. The omega-3 proponents are eager to prove that it does good. Some studies say yes, some no."
Review author Bloch said he had doubted the need for supplementation with omega-3s, more specifically known as long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA).
"I was initially quite skeptical that supplementing infant formula with LCPUFA would produce a measurable difference in infant development in any way, and that maybe [such supplementation] was a waste of money
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