Frequently Asked Questions Concerning DHA & ARA
Q. What is DHA and ARA?
A. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) are fatty acids found in human breast milk. Naturally occurring DHA and ARA supports eye, brain, heart, and neural development.
Q. How does my baby get DHA & ARA?
A. As mentioned above, DHA and ARA are found in breast milk. DHA and ARA levels begin to accumulate in infants before birth and if breastfed, are maintained by mother’s milk after birth. DHA and ARA are also found in sources of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Sources of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids include eggs, fish, flaxseed, leafy greens, and fish and canola oil. Eating foods rich in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids provide much needed DHA & ARA for formula fed babies (4 months and older).
Q. Why do food manufacturers put DHA and ARA in infant formula?
A. Today, almost all brands of baby formula produced in the U.S. are fortified with synthetic versions of DHA and ARA. Formula manufacturers fortify formulas with DHA and ARA to replicate the composition of breast milk, which has naturally occurring DHA and ARA.
Although formula manufacturers have touted the benefits of synthetic DHA and ARA, there has been no studies to support the long term beneficial effects of these fatty acids in infant formula. In 2010, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) banned the use of synthetic DHA and ARA in the use of organic formula because of toxic processing procedures.
Q. I’m feeding my baby an organic baby formula with added DHA and ARA? If the formula is organic, is it safe?
A. Even if you’re using an organic formula with synthetic DHA and ARA, there is no way to know if these added ingredients are safe for your baby. As mentioned above, the USDA banned the use of synthetic DHA and ARA in 2010 due to toxic processing procedures, however, the National Organics Standards Board approved the use of DHA and ARA for organic formulas as long as it was not processed with hexane. However, it is not known what they use to extract DHA and ARA from algae or fungus.
Q. Will my baby suffer if I feed her a formula that doesn’t contain DHA and ARA?
A. No! Your baby won’t suffer if you use a formula without DHA and ARA. There have been no conclusive studies showing added DHA and ARA have any real long-term benefits. We do know, however, the adverse health effects toxic chemicals like hexane can have on babies and young children.