DHA, EPA and AA for infants
Q: I have read somewhere that babies should have as minimum amounts of EPA because it competes with Arachadonic acid and that is why it’s best to have the least amount as possible and to get only DHA. That’s why I was looking for only Dha.
A: I’ve put together some information for you which may be helpful for you in making the choice on which type of liquid DHA product to purchase for your baby.
Breast milk contains AA (arachidonic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) (the amount depends on the mother diet & supplements – DHA is often very low in vegetarians and almost non-existent in vegan diets and for those who do not eat much cold water fish). Infant formula companies also add these fatty acids to some baby formulas.
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) is converted into DHA in the body through a series of elongation and desaturation reactions. Though this process is insufficient in many people, and there is suspicion among researchers this process is compromised in children with dyslexia, ADHD or dyspraxia.
Babies who are breastfed should get enough EPA if their mother is getting enough EPA in her diet.
I did look into your comments further about the EPA and AA competing in infants, and I think I need to research this more to be very clear on this issue. AA is made in the body from omega-6 fatty acids and EPA is made in the body from ALA (alpha-linolenic acid (flaxseed oil is high in this)- an omega 3 fatty acid (and EPA is obtained from fish oil).
Both AA and EPA made through different pathways in the body and both affect prostaglandins, though in different ways. Both EPA and DHA have benefits to young children and AA and DHA is especially important to an infant’s brain development. AA is found in the membranes of nerves and helps with the transmission of messages in the central nervous system.
This is some information published by the Linus Pauling Institute that attributes some studies of fish oil with preterm infants and decreased growth:
In early studies of DHA-enriched infant formula, EPA- and DHA-rich fish oil was used as a source of DHA. However, some preterm infants receiving fish oil-enriched formula had decreased plasma AA concentrations, which were associated with decreased growth(224). This effect was attributed to the potential for high concentrations of EPA to interfere with the synthesis of AA, which is essential for normal growth. Consequently, EPA was removed and AA was added to DHA-enriched formula. Currently available infant formulas in the U.S. contain only AA and DHA derived from algal or fungal sources, rather than fish oil. Randomized controlled trials have not found any adverse effects on growth in infants fed formulas enriched with AA and DHA for up to one year (36, 37).
This said, this is in relation to preterm, not post-term infants. I would be interested in reading the source which you found that is recommending just DHA for infants. It is known through a variety of research that giving infants and young children fish oil with higher levels of DHA than EPA is important for brain development.
Infants and children with phenylketonuria may benefit from diets supplemented with long-chain fatty acids, especially DHA, AA and EPA.