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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The role of essential fatty acids in development

item Heird, William
item Lapillonne, Alexandre

Submitted to: Annual Review of Nutrition
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/12/2005
Publication Date: 8/1/2005
Citation: Heird, W.C., Lapillonne, A. 2005. The role of essential fatty acids in development. Annual Review of Nutrition. 25:549-571.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The presence of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) in human milk but not in infant formula, coupled with lower plasma and brain lipid contents of DHA in formula-fed than in breast-fed infants and reports of higher IQ in individuals who were breast-fed versus formula-fed as infants, suggest that exogenous DHA (and ARA) may be essential for optimal development. Thus, since 1990, several studies have examined the impact of formulas containing DHA or DHA plus ARA on visual function and neurodevelopmental outcome. Some of these studies have shown benefits but others have not. These results leave largely unanswered the question of whether these fatty acids are beneficial for either the term or preterm infant. However, evidence that preterm infants might benefit is somewhat more convincing that that for term infants. Despite the limited evidence for efficacy, formulas supplemented with DHA and ARA are now available and appear to be safe.

Last Modified: 06/27/2017
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