What is troublesome, however, is that some infant formulas contain DHA- and ARA-containing oils that are novel foods—extracted from laboratory-grown fermented algae and fungus and processed utilizing a toxic chemical, hexane. These algal and fungal oils provide DHA and ARA in forms that are structurally different from those naturally found in human milk. These manufactured oils are known as DHASCO and ARASCO, which stand for docosahexaenoic acid single cell oil and arachidonic acid single cell oil.Mainstream web sources on DHA and ARA offer little reassurance. The Food and Drug Administration's FAQ page about infant formula says there is mixed evidence of short term benefit and no evidence of long term benefit. FDA says systematic monitoring is not in place to assess risks and benefits in countries where these addititives have been used, and the agency has asked formula makers to do postmarket surveillance of infants who consume these additives.
These oils are produced by Martek Biosciences Corporation and appear to be added to infant formula primarily as a marketing tool designed to convince parents that formula is now “as close as ever to breast milk.” Substantiating this thesis is a Martek investment promotion from 1996, which reads as follows: “Even if [the DHA/ARA blend] has no benefit, we think it would be widely incorporated into formulas, as a marketing tool and to allow companies to promote their formula as ‘closest to human milk.'”
Scientists have conducted numerous studies that show little or no benefit to an infant’s development from adding DHASCO and ARASCO to infant formula. Overall, research results are inconsistent and inconclusive. Meanwhile, the formula companies have advertised aggressively in an attempt to convince parents that their DHA/ARA formula provides the same nutrients, and therefore the same benefits, as breast milk.
A former employee for the Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in Texas explains: “Since they added these oils to formula, many new mothers seem to believe that formula is just as good for their babies as breast milk. It became much harder for us at WIC to convince mothers to breastfeed when formula ads claim that formula is as close as ever to breast milk.”
Friday, January 25, 2008
How safe and effective are DHA and ARA additives in infant formula?
Infant formula companies say oils that have been added to infant formula in recent years make the products "closer than ever to breastmilk." But these additives -- DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) and ARA (an omega-6 fatty acid) -- may be ineffective or even unsafe, according to a report released today (.pdf) by the Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based food policy advocacy group.