Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) are present in breast milk and play important roles in early infant development. A supply of these fatty acids in infant formula (typically following breast milk as a model with ARA > DHA) is thought to be important since endogenous synthesis is insufficient to maintain tissue levels equivalent to breast-fed infants. Intervention studies assessing the impact of DHA- and ARA-supplemented formulas have resulted in numerous positive developmental outcomes (closer to breast-fed infants) including measures of specific cognition functions, visual acuity, and immune responses. A critical analysis of outcome assessment tools reveals the essentiality of selecting appropriate, focused techniques in order to provide accurate evaluation of DHA- and ARA-supplemented formulas. Future research directions should encompass in-depth assessment of specific cognitive outcomes, immune function, and disease incidence, as well as sources of experimental variability such as the status of fatty acid desaturase polymorphisms.
Keywords: Arachidonic acid; Cognitive function; Docosahexaenoic acid; Immune function; Infant formula; Visual function.
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