Research shows that the omega-3 DHA is vital to brain and eye development during pregnancy. Fetuses and infants are unable to convert ALA to DHA, so it's important babies get it directly from their mothers. Infant formula enhanced with DHA has been instituted in 50 countries, but not in the United States. Why? "One reason," according to Mary Van Elswyk, PhD, RD, and Vice President of Scientific Affairs at OmegaTech Inc., "is that some early research reviewed formula supplemented with DHA via fish oil; but fish oil also contains EPA, which is fine for adults, but in infants it counteracts with other EFAs needed for growth." She says DHA alone can and should be added directly to infant formula.
Results from a preliminary study conducted by Elswyk's employer, Omega Tech, which produces DHA-enhanced eggs — showed DHA helped women carry babies to term. A larger, more extensive study is monitoring pregnant women's diets — specifically DHA's role in avoiding miscarriage and premature births — as well as monitoring babies' cognitive abilities through their first year. Results are expected in September 2001.