Getting the essential fatty acids ratio right.

More and more evidence keeps coming to hand confirming the developmental benefits of omega-3 DHA for babies whose mothers take adequate amounts of DHA in their daily diets during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, a recent study has suggested that if a mother also consumes high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids — largely linoleic acid (LA) from vegetable oils such as corn oil or soybean oil — then this can have a negative effect on the developmental benefits of omega-3 DHA in their offspring.

This study, conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, USA, compared the fatty acid profiles in breast milk of mothers in 28 countries with how well their children performed in later academic tests. They found that high levels of omega-6 LA in breast milk appeared to “undermine the effects (of brain development) of DHA, and seem to be bad for brains.” As diets in the general population have shifted over recent decades, and the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids has increased significantly, whilst the consumption of omega-3 DHA has fallen, the observations in the study concerned the researchers when they found that it was reflected in breast milk, and with apparent adverse effects on later childhood cognitive scores.

Quality baby formulas have the recommended ratios of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, and selecting a baby formula with “adequate” levels of omega-3 DHA (as outlined in “How to Choose a Baby Formula”) provides your baby with proven brain development benefits.