EVANSVILLE, Ind., -- Mead Johnson(R) Nutritionals is introducing a new infant formula with additional nutrients that have been clinically shown to support the mental development and visual acuity of infants. Called Enfamil LIPIL(TM), it is the only formula in the United States to include a unique blend of the nutrients DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid), important building blocks of brain and eye tissue. This major innovation in infant nutrition will be on store shelves beginning in early February.
These nutrients are provided to babies in utero and found naturally in breast milk, but have never before been included in infant formula in the U.S. Enfamil LIPIL's proprietary formula includes DHA and ARA derived from natural sources that are the only ones recognized by the FDA for use in infant formula.
"This is tremendously exciting and it represents a real breakthrough in infant formulas," said Alan Greene, MD, FAAP, a practicing pediatrician and attending physician at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University. "Experts agree that breast milk is the gold standard in infant nutrition, but many moms do not breastfeed. For those mothers, Enfamil LIPIL provides an excellent alternative and mothers can feel confident that no formula is closer to breast milk," said Greene.
Some fats -- and components of fats (fatty acids) -- offer a number of health benefits. There is growing evidence that the fatty acids DHA and ARA at the levels in Enfamil LIPIL are important for mental and visual development in infants.(1)(2)
During pregnancy, a growing baby will receive DHA and ARA from the mother -- this is especially important during the last trimester when there is significant brain growth. Breastfed babies also receive these nutrients; however, the levels they receive depend on the mother's diet. Breastfeeding mothers can increase the amount of DHA in their breast milk by eating foods like salmon, tuna and sardines.
Scientists have known that infants could synthesize DHA and ARA from precursors in infant formula (other fatty acids called alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid). However, some recent research has convinced many experts that not all babies can make enough of these nutrients from these precursors to support optimal development.
"Since rapid infant brain development occurs in the early months of life, a number of researchers believe that a direct dietary source of DHA and ARA at that time can be beneficial for brain and retinal development," said James W. Hansen, MD, PhD, neonatologist and medical director for Mead Johnson Nutritionals. "Therefore, Enfamil LIPIL represents a major innovation in infant nutrition in the U.S."
DHA- and ARA-enriched formulas have been fed to babies around the world for more than five years. Currently, formulas containing these nutrients are available in more than 60 countries, including the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. Several international organizations -- including expert panels sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization and by the Child Health Foundation -- recommend the addition of these nutrients to infant formula.
Promoting Brain Development
A study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, published in 2000, found that infants given Enfamil LIPIL performed better on a mental development test compared to infants who consumed the control formula without DHA and ARA.(1) Infants who were fed the new formula with these nutrients scored an average of about seven points higher on the 100-point scale on the mental development test at 18-months of age. The study with Enfamil LIPIL was led by Eileen Birch, PhD, of the Retina Foundation of the Southwest in Dallas, who has studied DHA and ARA for 15 years.
A 1998 study published in The Lancet and led by Peter Willatts, PhD, from the Department of Psychology, University of Dundee, U.K., further supports the benefits provided by DHA and ARA.(3) That study showed that at 10 months of age, infants who had been fed formula supplemented with these nutrients scored better on a test assessing complex problem solving skills when compared with infants fed formula that was not supplemented.
Enhancing Eye Development
DHA is a major structural component of the retina of the eye. It makes up as much as 60 percent of the fatty acids in certain phospholipids of the outer segments of the rods in the retina.
Several studies of infants fed DHA- and ARA-enriched formula have shown more rapid rates of visual development compared to infants fed unsupplemented formula. The advantage is equivalent to about one line on a standard eye chart during the first year of life, according to the Birch study using Enfamil LIPIL.
Nutrient Levels May Affect Results
More than 20 studies have been conducted over the last 10 years with infants fed DHA- and ARA-fortified formula. Some of these clinical studies have not shown incremental developmental benefits. Experts disagree as to why some of these studies found different results. Possible explanations, among others, may relate to variations in study design -- for example, the sensitivity of the testing methods and the ages of the infants being studied. Also, studies not showing incremental benefits typically did not use formula supplemented with the two nutrients at the levels found in Enfamil LIPIL. The levels in Enfamil LIPIL are comparable to global averages found naturally in breastmilk.
In every study, the group of children who received DHA- and ARA- supplemented formula performed as well or better on tests of visual and mental development compared to infants fed unsupplemented formula. Studies measuring potential long-term benefits of these nutrients in infant formula are not yet completed.
New Benefits for Babies
Enfamil LIPIL will begin appearing in hospital nurseries and on retail store shelves beginning in early February, 2002. Consumers can visit enfamil.com or call 1-800-BABY-123 for assistance in locating Enfamil LIPIL at a store in their area.
Consumers looking for more information about DHA and ARA and Enfamil LIPIL should talk to their baby's doctor, visit enfamil.com or call 1-800-BABY-123.
Enfamil infant formula is manufactured by Mead Johnson Nutritionals, a world leader in nutrition, recognized for developing and marketing high quality products that meet the nutritional needs of children and adults of all ages. Mead Johnson Nutritionals is a Bristol-Myers Squibb Company.
(1) Birch EE, Garfield S, Hoffman DR, Uauy R, and Birch DG: A randomized controlled trial of early dietary supply of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and mental development in term infants. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology 2000, 42:174-181.
(2) Birch EE, Hoffman DR, Uauy R, Birch DG and Prestidge C: Visual acuity and the essentiality of docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid in the diet of term infants. Pediatric Research 1998; 44:201-209.
(3) Willatts P, Forsyth JS, DiModugno MK, Varma S, and Colvin M: Effect of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in infant formula on problem solving at 10 months of age. Lancet 1998; 352:688-691.
SOURCE Mead Johnson Nutritionals
Web site: http://www.enfamil.com