A systematic review of studies published this month by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded there was no clear evidence that formula supplementation with DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, a nutrient found mainly in fish and fish oil, improves infant brain development. At the same time, it found no harm from adding the nutrient. The findings are consistent with a review of the effects of omega-3 supplements in pregnancy and infancy published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality last fall that found little evidence of benefit.
Still, many experts believe there is value in including DHA in formula. “Even if you can’t easily prove it, because it’s hard to prove developmental outcomes, it makes sense to use it,” said Dr. Steven Abrams, a professor of pediatrics at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. “It’s probably a good idea to keep it in there, and it’s certainly safe.”..
The review combined data from 15 randomized controlled trials into a meta-analysis including nearly 1,900 children, many tracked from infancy into mid-childhood. Some studies found small improvements in vision or cognition, but many did not, and when the results were pooled, there was no clear pattern of benefit from DHA added to formula…
“If you don’t have a deficient population, then it probably doesn’t matter” if people take a supplement, said Dr. Susan Carlson, professor of nutrition at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
But in the United States, many women don’t seem to be getting enough DHA. Women of childbearing age consume an average of 60 milligrams of DHA per day, but many experts recommend at least 200 milligrams per day during pregnancy and breast-feeding.