Arachidonic acid (AA) is supplied together with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in infant formulas, but we have limited knowledge about the effects of supplementation with either of these long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) on growth and developmental outcomes. AA is present in similar levels in breast milk throughout the world, whereas the level of DHA is highly diet dependent. Autopsy studies show similar diet-dependent variation in brain DHA, whereas AA is little affected by intake. Early intake of DHA has been shown to affect visual development, but the effect of LCPUFA on neurodevelopment remains to be established. Few studies have found any functional difference between infants supplemented with DHA alone compared to DHA+AA, but some studies show neurodevelopmental advantages in breast-fed infants of mothers supplemented with n-3 LCPUFA alone. It also remains to be established whether the AA/DHA balance could affect allergic and inflammatory outcomes later in life. Disentangling effects of genetic variability and dietary intake on AA and DHA-status and on functional outcomes may be an important step in the process of determining whether AA-intake is of any physiological or clinical importance. However, based on the current evidence we hypothesize that dietary AA plays a minor role on growth and development relative to the impact of dietary DHA.
Pediatric Research, 2015, Vol 77, Issue 1, p. 263-269