June 28, 2005

Mother’s milk helps prevent myopia – study

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Children who are breastfed are about
fifty percent less likely to be short sighted, Singapore
researchers said on Tuesday.

Docosahexaenoi acid or DHA, a substance found in breast
milk, could be the main element which improves early visual
development in babies, resulting in more ordered eyeball growth
which then reduces the development or severity of myopia.

"We can recommend infant breastfeeding as a protective
behavior that may be adopted by mothers to lower the
probability of the development of myopia," said Dr Saw Seang
Mei of the National University of Singapore, who headed the

Myopia is the most common eye problem. It affects as much
as 40 percent of the population in the United States and Europe
but between 70 and 90 percent of some Asian populations such as
Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong, according to the American
Academy of Family Physicians.

Saw said the DHA is also important for the development of
photoreceptor cells in the retina, which play a major role in
whether children become short-sighted.

Researchers studied 797 children aged between 10 to 12
years in Singapore as part of the survey. They were given
medical tests and also had to answer a series of questions
including the number of books they read per week.

The study, led by the Singapore Eye Research Institute,
found that the risk of myopia in a child that was breastfed is
0.6 times that of child that was not, even after taking into
account of other factors.

While genetic variation was seen to be the culprit of
myopia among children, soaring rates of the condition have led
more researchers to believe it is the rising watching of
television, playing computers games and reading that is to