Lipids are an important source of energy for young children and play a major role in the development and functioning of nervous tissue. Essential fatty acids and their long-chain derivatives also fulfill multiple metabolic functions and play a role in the regulation of numerous genes. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l'alimentation, de l'environnement et du travail [ANSES]) have recently recommended a minimum daily intake in preformed long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs): arachidonic acid (ARA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Mother's milk remains the only reference, but the large variability in its DHA content does not guarantee that breastfed children receive an optimal DHA intake if the mother's intake is insufficient. For children fed with infant formulas, ARA and DHA intake is often below the recommended intake because only one-third of infant formulas available on the market in France are enriched in LC-PUFAs. For all children, linoleic acid (LA) intake is on average higher than the minimal recommended values. The consequences of these differences between intake and recommended values are uncertain. A cautious attitude is to come close to the current recommendations and to advise sufficient consumption of DHA in breastfeeding women. For bottle-fed children, infant formulas enriched in LC-PUFAs and with moderate levels of LA should be preferred. LC-PUFA-rich fish should be consumed during breastfeeding, and adapted vegetable oils when complementary foods are introduced.
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