DHA Quick Facts
- Fact 1. A WHO/UN
committee recommends including DHA in formula. An expert committee
of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural
Organization of the United Nations (UN) has recommended that all pre-term
and term infant formulas contain DHA at levels found in breast milk.
The British Nutrition Foundation and the European Society of Paediatric
Gastroenterology and Nutrition have made similar recommendations.
DHA is already in some European and Asian formulas.
- Fact 2. DHA
is the most abundant structural fat in the brain and retina. Brain
tissue is about 60% lipid (structural fat, not adipose fat) and about
25% of that is DHA. DHA also comprises about 60% of the rod outer
segments of the retina of the eye. Brain and other nervous tissues
are unique in this high DHA content.
- Fact 3. DHA
is in breast milk. DHA is an important component of breast milk. U.S.
infant formulas do not currently contain DHA. Women should breast-feed
as long as possible to ensure that their babies get an adequate supply.
Women also should review their diets to ensure that their breast milk
contains enough of this nutrient. Dietary trends indicate that DHA
intake in the U.S. has declined by about 50% over the last 50 years.
- Fact 4. DHA
is essential for brain and eye development. The rate of brain growth
in the perinatal period is so rapid that the baby═s capacity to synthesize
DHA from an essential fatty acid precursor (linolenic acid) present
in some vegetable oils is insufficient to keep up with the demand
by the growing brain and nervous system. Independent studies have
shown that unless pre-formed DHA is provided to infants, their brain
DHA levels are subnormal compared to breast-fed babies.
- Fact 5. DHA
is correlated with improved mental and visual function in infants.
Studies show that children who were breast-fed perform better on cognitive
function tests later in life (by 5-9 IQ points) than those who were
formula-fed even after taking into account all confounding factors
associated with developmental test performance (e.g., socio-economic
status, IQ of parents, etc.). A greater developmental disparity has
been established for low-weight pre-term infants born without the
benefit of the maternal delivery of DHA during the last trimester.
They experience deficits of up to 20 IQ points compared to term infants
and are at greater risk for behavioral problems. Evidence points to
DHA as the reason.
- Fact 6. Low
DHA levels are associated with behavior problems in children. Specific
behavioral (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD) and
learning problems have been shown to correlate significantly with
low DHA levels. Research is under way to determine whether there is
- Fact 7. Low
DHA levels are associated with neurological disorders in adults, such
as Alzheimer's, depression and memory loss.