Fatty Acids in Formula Will Not Boost Babies Intelligence

Baby formula over the years has had various elements added to it to make it more like breast milk. Many of these formulas based on cow's milk have nutritional elements added. Fatty acids are one of the elements believed to boost brainpower just as much as breast milk when compared to formula without these acids. AA (arachidonic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) fortify the formula in the United States. Recently, a review of various studies proved differently.

These results showed no significantly higher brainpower with the infants that drank the formula with the fatty acids opposed to the babies who drank the formulas without them.


This does not mean that fatty acids do not offer any benefits when added. They could help increase the health of the immune system or the eyes for instance. In addition, the fatty acids could help cognitive abilities.

Breast milk is better than formula

Breast milk is still the best source of nourishment for babies according to many medical and public health organizations. Very specific recommendations on this subject are stated.

The first year of growth is so important for infants every effort for proper nutrition should be made. Breast milk plays a large part in this.

The manufacturers of baby formula try to get it as close to breast milk as possible. Fatty acids are added to accomplish this. This was first done in the hopes of enabling the formula to provide the same boost to brain functioning as breast milk. A recent review of a number of studies shows that there is no increase in brain functioning with babies that feed on this type of formula when compared to those who don't get this type of formula.

Fatty Acids Could Still Offer Benefits

Fatty acids still could offer some benefits to children. However, the researchers did not find a link to children's language and thinking skills with the addition of the fatty acids as with breastfeeding. They go on to say that babies fed breast milk typically have higher test scores when tested for mental development than those fed formula. This could be because of the difference in fatty-acid levels in breast milk and formula. These fatty acids are crucial for brain development in infants.

The studies have not been definitive in their results on what impact fatty acids in the formulas have had on the infants. This has led to further analysis by Dr. Ahmad Qawasmi from Yale University. He has combined many studies into his analysis.

All of the studies together, show that the addition of fatty acids does not increase intelligence. However, the addition of fatty acids could offer infants an improvement in their immune system or eyesight along with later benefits with information processing, behavior, attention span, or overall mood.

More Information on Fatty Acids and the Eyes

Omega-3 fatty acids show evidence of helping the eyes of infants develop. Researchers from Harvard published a report of an analysis that includes a number of studies in the Pediatrics Journal. The researchers discovered that pre-term healthy babies who fed on formula containing DHA had more acute vision are 2 and 4 months old that the pre-term healthy babies who fed on formula without DHA.

Why You Should Prefer Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding provides better nutrition for your baby and you should prefer it for the following reasons:


  • Your child will have higher IQ scores
  • Long after you finish breastfeeding, your child will still have an intellectual advantage
  • Your child will get better grades in school according to studies


Babies that are Breastfed have Fewer Behavior Issues

Oxford researchers discover that children who are breastfed have fewer behavior issues. A study that included 10,000 mothers with their infants concluded this could possibly be due to breast milk. This study appeared in the Archives of Disease in Childhood journal. The researchers believe that breastfeeding improves the interaction between mother and child.

It is easy to see by this information that while fatty acids being added to formula is important for nutrition, that it is still better to breastfeed your baby. Additional information can be found at "Effects of Fish Oil for Brain Development" or "How Fish Oil Can Help Children".

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