DHA and AA May Make Kids Smarter
DALLAS--According to a study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), adding DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and AA (arachidonic acid) to infant formula boosted the average intelligence scores in a group of 18-month-old children. Both DHA and AA are believed to play a role in the development of the nervous system.
"This study is an important step in the comprehensive array of studies needed to determine whether these substances should be added to infant formula," said Duane Alexander, M.D., director of the NICHD.
The study tested the intelligence scores of 56 18-month-old children. Divided into three groups, one group received formula containing only DHA, another received formula containing DHA and AA and the control group received a commercial infant formula that did not contain either substance. All three groups of children were enrolled in the study within five days of their birth and received one of the three formula types for 17 weeks.
The results showed that the children differed significantly on the Mental Development Index (MDI) of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSIDII). This index measures small children's memory, their ability to solve simple problems and their language capabilities. The children in the control had an average MDI score of 98--slightly below the national average of 100. The DHA group received an average score of 102.4, and the DHA plus AA group received an average score of 105. According to the researchers, a seven point difference represents a significant change in the performance of children.
A study is being planned with 150 children to support this new research. Also, the researchers plan additional studies to assess the metabolic effects of DHA and AA on the body. There will be a follow-up study to see if these gains in intelligence scores persist into early childhood.