The Development Of Baby Vision Needs DHA. So Says The European Parliament
The development of baby vision is one of the most important aspects of growing up
There is little doubt that the essential fatty acids known as the Omega 3 fatty acids, and in particular DHA, are important for vision. DHA is a significant component of the retinal rods in the eye, and research is showing that providing adequate DHA in the diet is important for both the development of baby vision as well as for protecting against macular degeneration amongst the older generation.
In the early years, and in particular from birth to the age of 3, the development of the eye and therefore of vision undergoes huge changes. In that period of 3 years the size of the eye in an infant increases to 3 times what it was at birth. By the age of 3 retinal tissue, or in other words tissue that makes the eye function, is mature. And the development of vision which includes of course other factors such as eye hand coordination, continues as the infant gets older. The development of baby vision is, of course, essential to all facets of life.
Part of the structure of the eye includes what are known as retinal rods. These contain very high levels of DHA with parts of these rods having more DHA content than any other cell in the body.
If the infant receives sufficient quantities of DHA throughout his or her early developmental years vision will develop properly, however if there is a deficiency in the amount of DHA in the diet this will result in these infants requiring a greater amount of light stimulation to achieve the same level of visual response as those who have had an adequate supply of DHA.
For some time it has been known that breastfed infants have better developed visual functions in early life compared to those who are fed formula. Provided the mother is receiving sufficient DHA in her diet, and in fact sufficient Omega 3 fatty acids in general, these will come through to the infant through the breastmilk. However to date many infant formulas have not contained the essential fatty acids, and in particular DHA, and as a result formula-fed infants did not receive the same amount of DHA as those who were breastfed.
Studies have shown that breastfed infants had better visual accuity in the first few months of life and better retinal development than those who were formula-fed.
The human body is unable to manufacture the Omega 3 essential fatty acids on its own, and relies on diet for its supply of these important fats.
These results have now been confirmed by the European Parliament. The European Parliament has now allowed infant formulas to include claims about the benefits of DHA on infant visual development, where these products are DHA fortified.
This is a solid recognition of the science behind the conclusions above, namely that a low level of intake of DHA during the early months and years can lead to deficiencies in visual development.
This was not an easy vote, and there was opposition from many sides. One of the obvious objections to making claims about the health benefits of formula is that it may lead parents to believe that infant formula is as good as breastmilk.
There seems little doubt that any mother, where able, should be breastfeeding her infant rather than using formula. Mothers milk is always best.
However there are always mothers who for various reasons are unable to breast feed, and in these cases using infant formulas containing DHA is much better than using a formula which does not.
The development of infant vision is only one reason for ensuring that the baby or infant receives a sufficient supply of the essential fatty acids known as the Omega 3 fats, and in particular DHA. There’s a wide range of other infant developmental reasons why DHA supply is crucial to the baby and infant. These include development of the brain, which we have talked about in another article about Omega 3 fats and children.
The development of your baby’s vision is one of the most important aspects of infant development, and not to be underestimated. The development of vision in the first few years of life is crucial to so many other aspects of life in the later years. From birth to 3 years of age your baby’s vision undergoes enormous changes, and it’s proper development relies on the mother providing the baby with sufficient essential nutrients, and in particular DHA.
So how do you ensure that your baby’s vision develops to its best? How do you make sure your baby is getting sufficient DHA in his or her diet?
The best way to do this is by ensuring that the breastfeeding mother has a sufficient supply of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids in her diet, and passes these on to her baby through her milk. Breastfeeding is still the healthiest way to feed your baby, and far superior to formula, whether DHA fortified or not.
This can be achieved by eating fish, or by taking fish oil supplements, to ensure an adequate supply of the Omega 3 fats for herself. These will then be passed to her baby in adequate amounts. Taking Omega 3 capsules will also ensure that the mother has sufficient essential fatty acids for her own good health as well as the health and development of her baby.
It’s important however, particularly for pregnant women who intend to eat fish to increase their Omega 3 intake, to research the type of fish you eat, as different types of fish can be contaminated with varying levels of Mercury. It may well be worth discussing this with your doctor.
To read more about the importance of DHA in baby vision development click here, and to read more about the vote of the European Parliament allowing claims about DHA and infant vision on formula click here.
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Filed under: Omega 3 And Children