Babies fed with formula milk enriched with the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPs) that are found naturally in breast milk grow up to be healthier and more intelligent than their counterparts fed on normal formula, according to research conducted at Dundee University.

Lead scientist Dr Peter Willatts, an expert in child development, stressed that the study was important because while breastfeeding is best for babies, it is not always possible.

The six year study involved monitoring the progress of both sex babies from Scotland, England, Belgium and Italy; half of which were fed with LCP-enriched formula milk while the other half were given ordinary formula milk.

At the age of six, both groups were given a series of tasks to complete, involving a succession of picture matching.

Willatts found that children who had eaten the LCP milk had lower blood pressure and were more intelligent. He explained: “The group given the LCP supplement from birth were measurably faster in finding the correct images. Other intelligence tests showed them to be more efficient in understanding and solving problems.”

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Willatts believes that by giving bottle fed babies value-added formula milk, they could also benefit from the health and mental agility advantages commonly in breast-fed babies.

The fatty acids in mothers’ milk, which are not present in standard formula milk, are also found in green-leaf vegetables, such as spinach and cabbage, and in oily fish, such as sardines and mackerel.