Researchers in Singapore say babies who are breastfed may be less likely to become nearsighted children.

That was true even after controlling for nearsightedness risk factors, say Yap-Seng Chong, MD, and colleagues. They report their findings in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Nearsightedness is the leading cause of visual impairment in developed countries," writes Chong, who works at Singapore's National University Hospital. There are more than 30 million nearsighted adults in the U.S., says Chong's report.

Read WebMD's "Making the Breastfeeding Decision"

Nearsightedness Study

About 960 children were included in the study, which was done in Singapore. The Asian nation is home to one of the world's highest rates of nearsightedness, say the researchers.

The kids' parents were asked if their children had ever been breastfed, how long breastfeeding had lasted, and whether the kids had also been fed formula. A total of 418 children had been breastfed to some extent.

Read WebMD's "7 Myths About Breastfeeding"

Less Nearsightedness in Breastfed Kids

Three years later, almost 800 of the children had their vision retested; 521 were nearsighted. Nearsightedness was less common in those who had been breastfed, says the study.

The length of breastfeeding didn't matter. Nearsightedness was also not affected by whether the kids had been exclusively, mostly, or partly breastfed as babies.

Breastfeeding has been linked with brain development, which could affect young children's vision, say the researchers. They note that before weaning, breast milk is a main source of many nutrients, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is important in the development of the brain and eyes.

Because nearsightedness is so common in Singapore, the results might not apply to other countries, they say.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCE: Chong, Y-S. The Journal of the American Medical Association, June 22/29, 2005; vol 293: pp 3001-3002.