The company has always taken the position that research has demonstrated mixed results in regards to the necessity of adding DHA & ARA to formula.1 Below are the two arguments that parents should consider when choosing a formula:
Reasons to question the necessity of adding DHA & ARA to formula:
Omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, are not considered to be essential nutrients by the FDA. This is because the human body is able to convert the essential fatty acids (linolenic and linoleic) to DHA and ARA and there is no evidence of immaturity during early childhood of this metabolic conversion.2, 3 The American Academy of Pediatrics along with the FDA specifies the nutrients that must be used in formula. Presently, there is not a requirement for DHA or ARA.
Baby formula research has demonstrated that when a baby receives higher levels of essential fatty acids (linolenic and linoleic), the addition of DHA and ARA to formula did not show any significant health benefits. All Baby’s Only Organic® formulas contain high levels of these essential fatty acids.
To date, the American Academy of Pediatrics(AAP) has taken “no official position” on adding the DHA to formulas. The AAP also believes that “it is likely that any beneficial effects of DHA supplementation will be subtle and possibly not detected with available methodology.
Good Reasons to Include DHA & ARA to Formula:
Breast-fed babies receive DHA and ARA from breast milk and studies show that breast-fed babies typically have higher blood levels of DHA and ARA in comparison to babies fed formulas without DHA and ARA. 4, 5 This has raised the question as to whether DHA and ARA supplementation is needed in formulas.
These fats are known to concentrate in the gray matter of the baby's brain and eye retina starting in the third trimester of pregnancy. Following birth, a baby continues to receive an abundance of DHA and ARA fatty acids through breast milk. Because DHA and ARA play a role in brain and eye development and also because there is no evidence that supplementation with these non-essential fatty acids is harmful to babies and young children, most formulas are now fortified with DHA and ARA.
1. Qawasmi A et al. “Meta-analysis of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation of formula and infant cognition,” Pediatrics; originally published online May 28, 2012; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-2127. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/05/23/peds.2011-2127
2. Salem N Jr, Wegher B, Mena P, Uauy R. “Arachidonic and docosahezaenoic acids are biosynthesized from their 18-carbon precursors in human infants,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA. 1996; 93:49-54.
3. Uauy R, Mena P, Wegher B, et al. “Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid formation in neonates, effect of gestational age and intrauterine growth,” Pediatric Research, 2000; 47:127-135.
4. Farquharson J, Cockburn F, Patrick WA, et al. “Effect of diet on the fatty acid composition of the major phospholipids of infant cerebral cortex,” Archives of Disease in Childhood. 1995; 72:198-203.
5. Makrides M, Neumann MA, Byard RW, et al. “Fatty acid composition of brain, retina, and erythrocytes in breast- and formula-fed infants,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1994; 60:189-194.