When we did a review of organic baby formula, we briefly talked about an ingredient that is generally included called hexane processed DHA/ARA. Since then, hexane processed DHA/ARA has been banned from organic baby formula (although it doesn’t appear to have been removed from organic formula yet). The reason? These DHA and ARA additives are produced using a potential neurotoxin known as hexane.
So once hexane processed DHA/ARA is removed from organic baby formula, should you switch to non-organic formula or is DHA even important?
What is DHA?
DHA is very important for brain development, it’s food for the brain and because 60% of our brain is made up of fats, we need to be feeding it good fats. According to Dr. Sears, “The body needs two kinds of fat to manufacture healthy brain cells (the message senders) and prostaglandins (the messengers). These are omega 6 fatty acids (found in many oils, such as safflower, sunflower, corn, and sesame oils) and omega 3 fatty acids (found in flax, pumpkin seeds and walnuts, and cold water fish, such as salmon and tuna). A diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids (such as the LNA from flax oil or the EPA and DHA from fish oils) not only provides the body with healthy fats, but it also lowers the blood level of potentially harmful ones, such as cholesterol and, possibly, even reversing the effects of excess trans fatty acids.”
Dr. Sear’s continues, “In fact, there are two windows of time in which the brain is especially sensitive to nutrition: the first two years of life for a growing baby and the last couple decades of life for a senior citizen. The most rapid brain growth occurs during the first year of life, with the infant’s brain tripling in size by the first birthday. During this stage of rapid central nervous system growth, the brain uses sixty percent of the total energy consumed by the infant. Fats are a major component of the brain cell membrane and the myelin sheath around each nerve. So, it makes sense that getting enough fat, and the right kinds of fat, can greatly affect brain development and performance. In fact, during the first year, around fifty percent of an infant’s daily calories come from fat. Mother Nature knows how important fat is for babies; fifty percent of the calories in mother’s milk is fat.”
Research has found that:
- Infants who have low amounts of DHA in their diet have reduced brain development and diminished visual acuity.
- The increased intelligence and academic performance of breastfed compared with formula- fed infants has been attributed in part to the increased DHA content of human milk.
- Cultures whose diet is high in omega 3 fatty acids (such as the Eskimos who eat a lot of fish) have a lower incidence of degenerative diseases of the central nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis.
- Experimental animals whose diets are low in DHA have been found to have smaller brains and delayed central nervous system development.
- Some children with poor school performance because of ADD, have been shown to have insufficient essential fatty acids in their diet. (This is a very interesting theory, read more about it here.)
So how can I get DHA in my children’s body?
1. Breastfeed - The level of DHA in your breast milk is affected by the level you ingest via food or supplements.
2. Infant formula – Most infant formula on the market today DOES contain DHA and is labeled as such. Currently, the only organic formula that does NOT have added DHA in it is Nature’s One Baby’s Only.
3. DHA supplements -You can find DHA supplements for your infant, children, teens and adults. In our home, we use Nordic Naturals, a brand my naturopath recommends – DHA for infants and DHA for children.
4. DHA food sources – The healthiest source of DHA is seafood. Two 4-ounce servings of omega-3-rich fish per week should yield a sufficient amount of omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA. Besides fish oils, vegetable oils (primarily flax seed, soy, and canola) are also rich sources of omega 3 fatty acids, with flax seed oil being the best. The two F’s, fish and flax, are the top brain-building foods for growing children, and adults.
I want to plainly state that I’m not encouraging anyone to give up baby formula because it contains hexane processed DHA. I am a huge believer in DHA and have seen it affect change, particularly in our daughter (I’ll write more on that later). I just wanted to point out the importance of DHA and that there are multiple ways to get DHA into our bodies.