DHA and ARA for Infant Formula
DHA and ARA have been associated with the mental and visual advantages that breast-fed babies have consistently shown over babies fed formulas not containing these fatty acids. Expert bodies such as the World Health Organization, the British Nutrition Foundation and a Child Health Foundation panel have recognized the importance of DHA and ARA in the infant diet and recommend their inclusion in infant formulas.
Infant formula companies have been using life’sDHA and life’sARA™ since 1994. Today, formulas containing life'sDHA and life'sARA have seen great success in markets worldwide. The growth in availability of products with DHA and ARA is being driven by consumer awareness of the health benefits associated with DHA and ARA in the infant diet. Millions of parents have purchased infant formula with life'sDHA and life'sARA, and, as the market has shown, they are willing to pay a premium to provide the best nutrition for their children.
Benefits of DHA and ARA for Infants
Although breastmilk is the natural source of DHA and ARA, supplemented infant formula has been shown to be a good source of these nutrients for formula-fed babies. In fact, a clinical study concluded that infants who were fed formula supplemented with DHA and ARA at recommended levels:
- Scored 7 points higher on the Mental Development Index (MDI) than infants who were fed formula without DHA and ARA.
- Exhibited better visual acuity (equivalent to one line on the eye chart) than the non-supplemented infants and similar visual acuity to that of the breast-fed infants.
Additional research has concluded that infants who were breast-fed for four to six months and then weaned to DHA and ARA supplemented infant formula demonstrated more mature visual acuity than those infants who were weaned to non-supplemented formula. This supports the idea that DHA and ARA are important for optimal development beyond six months of age. Other clinical studies, particularly studies involving infant formulas with lower levels of added DHA and ARA, have not reported similar effects.
The Johnson Index is a database which tracks the number of infants, toddlers and pregnant/nursing women by year who have received DHA and/or ARA from products enriched with life'sDHA and/or life'sARA. This index may be used by researchers in the future to detect potential reasons for trends in brain, eye and heart health.
The Johnson Index was created in honor of Ann L. Johnson, M.D., a psychiatrist/ psychopharmacologist who retired as a Director of Martek in March 2005, after serving on the Board of Directors for 10 years. Dr. Johnson’s interest in the neurological and mental development of infants and children was instrumental in the development of this index. Dr. Johnson was a physician on the psychiatry staff of Mills Peninsula Hospital and the neonatology staff of Children’s Hospital Stanford from 1992 to 2001. She also conducted a private practice in psychiatry and psychopharmacology.
Approximately 64 million infants are estimated to have been fed infant formula containing life’sDHA and/or life’sARA since the beginning of 1998. In 2010 alone, approximately 11 million infants consumed formula contains life’sDHA or life’sARA oils.*
*Estimate of infant formula consumers is based on DHA and ARA shipments to infant formula customers, inclusion levels of DHA/ARA by customer, estimated consumption by stage of formula, and annual infant consumption estimates.