Arachidonic acid requirements as an adjunct to DHA in infant formula

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The standard for infant formula composition must be based on clear and convincing evidence compared with the proper standard of care, human breast milk. Breast milk provides a more balanced nutritional composition than comparator commercial human formulas. Arachidonic acid (ARA) and docosahexaenoicacid (DHA) are universal and  prominent components of breast milk of well-nourished humans. 

Leading international scientists at ISSFAL congress held in Stellenbosch, South Africa (2016) had highlighted studies emphasising that DHA is essential for normal brain development in infants, as major infant brain growth occurs during pregnancy and throughout the first two years of life. It was mentioned that it is best acquired from the diet rather than by the less effective conversion from α-linolenic acid.

It is a very right decision by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to change regulation for presence of DHA in infant formula, from optional to mandatory by 2020. However, it is not understandable why the authors of the EFSA report concluded that ARA is not necessary to add to infant formula even in the presence of DHA.

ARA is always present in human milk at a relatively fixed level and is accumulated in tissues throughout the body where it serves several important functions. There is growing evidence from preclinical and clinical studies that ARA plays an important role in maintaining infant health through its effects on the immune system and through the modulation of the inflammatory response.

Based on paper published by Prof Michael A. Crawford and Prof J. Thomas Brenna in PLEFA journal (2015), the proposal to feed DHA without ARA is the opposite idea; it is disinformation that potentially could lead to risk of cardio and cerebrovascular morbidity and even mortality through suppression of the favorable oxylipin derivatives of arachidonic acid.

The synthesis of DHA and ARA is limited in infants and both DHA and ARA must be obtained from dietary sources.

The European Food Safety Authority recommendation overruling breast milk composition should be revised, otherwise being unsafe, ungrounded in most of the evidence, and risking life long disability.



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