Formula fed babies may be mentally disadvantaged by manufacturers leaving important long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) out of the mix.
In a study, 44 infants were randomised to conventional formula or a LCPUFA supplemented one for the first four months of life. At 10 months, they were assessed by a three step "means end problem solving" test, which looked at the ability of the children to execute a sequence of planned steps to achieve a goal. The supplemented group performed significantly better. High scores on infant problem solving are supposedly related to IQ in later childhood.
Manufacturers have left these important nutrients, which are present in breast milk, out of artificial milk formulas because it was assumed infants could synthesise them themselves. This is not the case, and this study, although small, suggests that supplementing with LCPUFAs may have important long term consequences for a formula fed baby's intellectual development (The Lancet, 1998; 352: 688-91).
In another study, researchers in an ongoing study of ageing have found that poor nutrition in childhood could be linked to Alzheimer's in adulthood.
In the study of 3,733 men, aged between 71 and 93, men shorter than five feet one inch were nearly three times more likely to develop Alzheimer's. The researchers suggest that a good diet in utero as well as during infancy may reduce life long risk (Pediatrics, 1998; 102: 602-9).