Ask the Dietitian - What is DHA and ARA?

Ask the Dietitian - What is DHA and ARA?

Posted by Diane, MPH, RD, LD - Director of Nutrition Services on Jul 23rd 2020

DHA can be somewhat of a controversial topic. There is a lot of information circulating about DHA and ARA and whether or not it is safe for children to consume or even needed. As you probably know, some of our formulas do contain both DHA and ARA. With so many questions surrounding these fatty acids, I felt as though I wanted to talk about and educate our moms and dads about DHA and ARA and whether or not you should feel comfortable feeding it to your little one. 

First, what exactly is DHA and ARA?

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCPUFA). ARA (arachidonic acid) is an omega-6 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCPUFA). Both are non-essential fatty acids because the human body has the capability of making them from other available fats already consumed. DHA is made from linolenic fatty acid and ARA is made from linoleic fatty acid. Linolenic and linoleic fatty acids are essential fatty acids meaning that the body cannot make them and they must be provided through the foods we eat.

Research has been taking place for decades on the role of DHA and ARA in infant development. DHA is known to concentrate in a fetus' developing brain and eye retina at a rate that increases as the pregnancy progresses. This accumulation of DHA and ARA in the brain and retina continues after birth. ARA is usually plentiful in the typical American diet whereas DHA intake is often times too low. This is why DHA supplementation and consumption of foods high in DHA are recommended for pregnant women. The FDA and American Academy of Pediatrics have not determined that DHA and ARA, non-essential fatty acids, are needed in infant or toddler formulas and all standard formulas today contain the essential fatty acids (Linolenic and linoleic fatty acids). These essential fatty acids are components of the oil blends used in formulas. Even though the FDA does not officially require that DHA and ARA are added to formulas, Nature's One believes that the formulas supplemented with DHA and ARA at the levels used are safe and provide additional reassurance that a child is getting enough to support brain and eye development. 

However, it is important to consider from where the DHA and ARA is being sourced. Some DHA and ARA is processed with dangerous chemicals that can be harmful to children. Please refer to our blog article, "Ask the Dietitian - Where Does DHA Come From?" to learn more about the different sources of DHA and ARA. You can also go to our website for more information about the DHA and ARA we use.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions about today's blog, or any other questions you may have! I am happy to help!