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Nutrient-enriched infant formula appears beneficial for kid’s language development, study finds

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

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Related tags: Infant formula, language, Nutrient

Compound-enriched infant formula appears to be linked to the development of a child’s language at four years old in a similar way to breastfed infants, a team of researchers concludes.

The team found children fed an experimental infant formula enriched with functional nutrients (EF) appeared to show higher scores in language use and oral spontaneous expression than standard infant formula (SF) -fed children.

“The findings from this study suggest the long-term beneficial effects of a new infant formula containing Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (LC-PUFAs), milk fat globule membrane (MFGM), synbiotics, and other functional nutrients on language development in healthy children at four years old,”​ the study comments.

“Thus, this new infant formula might promote optimal brain development in a similar way to breast milk.

“Furthermore, socioeconomic factors seem to be involved in language development during childhood.”

Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) intake during infancy has been linked with optimal brain development particularly with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) intake.

An adequate DHA intake is thought to be beneficial in infant cognitive performance, including verbal learning ability, language, reading, spelling, nonverbal intelligence, and memory.

Bovine milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) is also an ingredient that has recently been added to infant formulas.

MFGM is rich in sialic acid as part of gangliosides and glycosylated proteins, which have also been shown to be important for optimal brain development in different studies.

In addition, infant formulas are currently supplemented with probiotics and prebiotics, which are known for their role in the establishment, composition, and metabolic activity of gut microbiota [9].

Study details

The team began a randomised double-blind COGNIS study, in which 89 children were identified as having been fed a standard infant formula (SF, n = 46)

Meanwhile, 43 children were identified as having been fed an experimental infant formula enriched with functional nutrients (EF, n = 43) during their first 18 months of life. As a reference group, 33 exclusively breastfed (BF) were included.

Language development was assessed using the Oral Language Task of Navarra-Revised (PLON-R). ANCOVA, chi-square test, and logistic regression models were performed.

Along with the observations that EF children scored higher in language use and oral spontaneous expression than SF children, SF children were more frequently categorised into “need to improve and delayed”​ in the use of language than EF children.

The team also found that the SF children may more frequently present “need to improve and delayed” ​in the PLON-R total score than BF children.

Additional results suggested that SF children presented a higher risk of suffering language development than BF children.

Single nutrient effect?

“Our study evaluates the whole effects of several functional nutrients that help to narrow the gap between the composition of the EF and breast milk,”​ says the study, led by Dr Ana Maria Nieto Ruiz, researcher at the department of paediatrics at the university.

“Our current results suggest that language development in EF children is similar to BF children.

“However, it is difficult to ascertain whether this effect is due to a single nutrient or to the synergistic effect of all of them.

“Although a possible positive and direct effect of LC-PUFAs has been suggested, we do not know the potential role of other bioactive compounds, including MFGM, gangliosides, nucleotides, or sialic acid, on language development, as well as the potential interactions between them.”

Source: Nutrients

Published online ahead of print: doi.org/10.3390/nu12020535

“Influence of a Functional Nutrients-Enriched Infant Formula on Language Development in Healthy Children at Four Years Old.”

Authors: Ana Nieto-Ruiz et al.

Related topics: R&D, Nutritionals, Functional Dairy

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