DHA and ARA supplements in infant formula milk powder
- DHA + ARA Supplements in Formula -

DHA and ARA in Formula

Behind this excitement lies concern over a babies eventual intellect. We have learned that  breastfed babies  have a higher IQ, on average than  formula-fed babies . Since DHA and ARA have a role in brain development and are present in breast milk, researchers felt that supplementing formula with these compounds may, like breast milk, make a difference in a child's IQ down the line.

However, there isn't enough evidence available so far to know whether or not DHA and ARA supplemented formula will have any real impact on brain development in children. Looking at studies done on other animals (animal literature) has also failed to see any improvement in brain development. It is thought, however, that levels of these fatty acids at levels greater than those found in human breast milk may have adverse effects on growth, survival, and neurodevelopment in other animals.

We are beginning to learn more about the possible benefits of DHA and ARA in the formula. One is that it appears that the intake of a formula containing DHA and ARA reduces the risk of skin and respiratory allergies in children. The supplements also appear to reduce the risk of asthma and wheezing in children who have mothers with allergies.

In addition, babies who receive a formula containing DHA and ARA may have fewer respiratory illnesses. A 2014 study found that infants fed formula containing DHA and ARA had fewer episodes of bronchitis, bronchiolitis, nasal congestion, and diarrhea requiring medical attention than infants fed formula without these supplements.

Current studies on humans show no harmful effects of supplementing infant formula with DHA and ARA and some studies even show some benefits to a child's visual function and/or cognitive and behavioral development. However, other studies showed no difference or improvement in development. Since its approval, formulas containing these compounds have been undergoing what is known as "post-marketing surveillance." This recommendation may be frightening to some parents, but it is important to note that most new medications, vaccines, and supplements are monitored in this way.

DHA and ARA addition to infant formula

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) are present in breast milk and play important roles in early infant development. A supply of these fatty acids in infant formula (typically following breast milk as a model with ARA > DHA) is thought to be important since endogenous synthesis is insufficient to maintain tissue levels equivalent to breast-fed infants. Intervention studies assessing the impact of DHA- and ARA-supplemented formulas have resulted in numerous positive developmental outcomes (closer to breast-fed infants) including measures of specific cognition functions, visual acuity, and immune responses. A critical analysis of outcome assessment tools reveals the essentiality of selecting appropriate, focused techniques in order to provide accurate evaluation of DHA- and ARA-supplemented formulas. Future research directions should encompass in-depth assessment of specific cognitive outcomes, immune function, and disease incidence, as well as sources of experimental variability such as the status of fatty acid desaturase polymorphisms.

The DHA is extracted from fermented microalgae and the ARA is extracted from soil fungus. The breast does not use either of these items to manufacture its fatty acids, and these sources are new to the food chain. Each of the processed oils has its own fatty acid composition, adding a number of fatty acids to formula that already are contained in the plant oils mixed into the base formula. Human fatty acids are structurally different from manufactured ones from plant sources. Human fatty acids interact with each other in a special matrix. Just because they perform as they do in human milk does not mean they will perform at all in an artificial construct.


LC-PUFA After reviewing the recent literature and current recommendations regarding LC-PUFA for term infant nutrition during the first months of life, a 2008 international expert working group on LC-PUFAs in perinatal practice led by B. Koletzko concluded that "the available evidence strongly supports benefits of adding DHA and ARA to infant formula. The panel stated that the addition of DHA and ARA to infant formula "appears appropriate." Furthermore, the authors stated that, "a large database exists concerning not only the safety, but also the efficacy, of infant formula containing both ARA and DHA These facts, together, support the addition of both ARA and DHA when LC-PUFAs are added to formula. Parents and health professionals can be assured infant formula is safe and nutritious.

EFSA The scientific opinion of the EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition, and Allergies (NDA) regarding Dietary Reference Values (DRVs) for fats, including saturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids, and cholesterol was published. The opinion set an Adequate Intake (AI) level for DHA for infants and young children, and stated "small amounts of DHA may be needed for optimal growth and development of infants and children," including 20-50 mg/day for infants 0-6 months of age.

Agence Francaise De Securite Sanitaire Des Aliments (AFSSA) AFSSA published a Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for Fatty Acids, including DRIs for infants 0-6 months and infants and young children 6-36 months. AFSSA also recognized DHA as an essential fatty acid for its role in structure and function of the brain and eye. The ADA and the DC have recommended the inclusion of DHA and ARA in infant formula and have highlighted the importance of DHA and ARA to infant health. In their position statement on dietary fatty acids, the ADA/DC note no adverse effects of feeding marketed infant formula containing both ARA and DHA in amounts found in human milk are known. Because of possible benefits and lack of adverse effects, it is recommended that all infants who are not breastfed be fed a formula containing both ARA and DHA through at least the first year of life.

Commission of the European Communities (EC). The EC states that DHA and ARA are considered safe for use as an optional ingredient for infant formulas. ATLAS Infant Formula: FAO, WHO and EC (EFSA) research has demonstrated that DHA and ARA, both present in human milk, are physiologically important in prenatal and postnatal life during the period of rapid brain and eye development and throughout life as well. DHA and ARA have been shown to rapidly accumulate in the brain and eye development during the last trimester prenatally and the first two years. Soluble vitamins: C, A, D, E, B1, B2, B6, B12 and: FOS (Fructooligosaccaride) and GOS (Galactooligsaccaride).

BACKGROUND: DHA is particularly required for the development of the cerebral cortex, the region of the brain responsible for language development and information processing, and plays a vital function in developing visual sharpness (acuity). ARA is an important precursor for modulators/mediators of a variety of essential biological processes (e.g., the inflammatory response, regulation of blood pressure, regulation of sleep/wake cycle). DHA and ARA are synthesized in the body from the precursor essential fatty acids, a-linolenic acid ( ALA ) and linoleic acid (LA), respectively, that are also present in human milk and infant formula. Evidence that blood levels of DHA and ARA are typically higher in breastfed infants than in infants fed formulas not containing these LCPUFAs provided a basis for investigating the addition of DHA and ARA to infant formulas. Studies suggest that premature infants may benefit the most from direct consumption of DHA and ARA. Throughout the third trimester, a mother passes DHA and ARA to the baby through the placenta. Postnatally, these nutrients are passed through human milk. In the event that a baby is born prematurely, placental transport of DHA and ARA is interrupted, thereby reducing the baby's total accumulation of ARA and DHA prior to birth. Addition of the GRAS sources of DHA and ARA to preterm formula provides these important nutrients safely. Studies show that formulas containing added DHA and ARA are safe and support visual and cognitive development. 

DHA + ARA Supplements


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