Prenatal & Postpartum Articles

The Benefits Of DHA & ARA

By Dr. Austin Abramson


Doctors agree that breastfeeding is best for babies. And human breast milk is a natural source of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid). DHA is also naturally transferred to the fetus from the mom. However, occasionally new mothers do not or cannot breast feed and infant formula is the only alternative that offers proper nutrition.


Not all infant formulas are the same. Some formulas come enriched with iron, others are soy based. Many recent medical studies demonstrate infant formula supplemented with DHA and ARA offer health advantages over non-supplemented formula.


What are DHA & ARA?

DHA and ARA are essential fatty acids. We use the term "essential" because the human body has limited ability to manufacture these fatty acids, so they must be consumed from outside sources. DHA is a "good" fat that is necessary for proper health and development. DHA is found throughout the body, but is especially concentrated in the eye and brain. DHA makes up about 97% of the omega-3 in the brain and 93% of the omega-3 in the eyes.


DHA and ARA are naturally found in breast milk, and transferred to the newborn. At birth the human brain weighs 70% of the weight of an adult human brain. Brain development is complete by age 5-6 years old. DHA and ARA have been demonstrated in multiple studies to improve cognitive and visual scores in children. One study showed that DHA and ARA supplemented infants had a mean increase of 7 points on the Bayley Scale of Infant Development. Other studies have revealed improved visual acuity in infants with DHA and ARA supplementation.


Why do we need DHA & ARA in formula?

The ability of the human body to produce DHA and ARA is limited and therefore ingestion is the primary source of these important nutrients. Later in life, we get these fatty acids from organ meats and fatty/oily fish. The problem is that the FDA has issued strict restrictions on the amount of fish that should be consumed by pregnant and lactating women because of the concern of ocean borne pollution and contamination.


DHA and ARA in Earth's Best infant formula is a product from a non fish-source. It is manufactured from a vegetarian source. The oil is harvested in vats under strict hygienic and safety protocols. It is not genetically modified and has no contamination from pesticides or heavy metals.