Cognitive and visual development: Influence of differences in breast and formula fed infants

Carlo Agostoni, Marcello Giovannini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several recent studies document a beneficial effect of breast-feeding on later neurodevelopmental outcomes. The mechanisms involved are still in need of elucidation, but evidence is accruing that the fatty acid (FA) composition of human milk plays a role. The composition of body fats, from circulating erythrocyte lipids to brain phospholipids, is linked in infants to the early feeding mode and which FA predominates among circulating lipids influences visual and neurodevelopmental performance test scores. In these studies, greater differences were found between breast-fed and standard formula-fed infants, the latter showing low tissue long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA: arachidonic acid, AA, 20:4n-6; eicosapentaenoic acid. EPA, 20:5n-3; docosahexaenoic acid, DHA, 22:6n-3) accretion and lower visual and neurodevelopmental test scores. Human milk contains LCPUFA, while most available formulas, especially those intended for full-term infants, do not. With the progressive introduction of solid foods, the question arises whether a specific or "ideal" dietary lipid mixture can be found to meet growth requirements and ensure a lipid balance adequate for the early and effective preventive purposes. These complementary aspects are challenges for the paediatric nutrition researcher today.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-188
Number of pages6
JournalNutrition and Health
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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