The Douglass Report August 2001

August 2001 PDF

DHA: The ingredient in breast milk that
affects you more directly than you might think

In recent years, study after study has shown the benefits of Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA-not to be confused with DHEA). One of the primary sources of DHA is breast milk. But what about bottle-fed babies? Despite the mounting evidence supporting the addition of DHA to infant formulas, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will not permit its use in the United States. In case it impresses you, even the World Health Organization, the Food and Agricultural Organization, and the National Institutes of Health have endorsed the addition of DHA to infant formula with no visible effect on the FDA.

According to a article by reporter Mollie Martin, "Breast-fed babies have an IQ of six to ten points higher than formula-fed babies. Scientists and nutritional experts attribute this to DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that is an essential structural component of the brain and retina." Dr. David Kyle, chief of research at Martek Biosciences Corporation, has been involved in several studies involving DHA. He has consistently observed that formula-fed babies have far lower levels of visual and intellectual acuity than do their breast-fed peers.

There is no substitute for breast-feeding

The human brain is roughly 60 percent fat. Twenty-five percent of that fatty tissue is DHA. However, the human body does not produce its own DHA; we must get it instead from the food we eat. The amount of DHA in a woman's breast milk directly reflects how much she consumes. Studies show that women in the United States are severely deficient in DHA, with levels resembling those of women in Third World countries. The current high-carb, low-protein diet trends are a major contributing factor here: Foods rich in DHA are often aslo high in protein-the best sources being fish, liver, and brain (especially the latter two). If you are a vegan and are pregnant, you are condemning your baby to runthood and low IQ scores whether you choose nursing or bottle feeding, since neither option provides adequate amounts of DHA.

During the last trimester of pregnancy, the mother transfers much of the DHA needed for the development of the fetus's brain and nervous system to her baby. Again, the amount of DHA consumed by the mother directly affects the amount her baby receives. Once the baby is born, it receives its DHA through the mother's breast milk. If the baby is bottle-fed, though, it receives no DHA after birth and is shortchanged in neurological development. Premature infants come into the world at a developmental disadvantage, since they are born before they have received the full DHA benefits of the last trimester of pregnancy. Add to this the fact that when premies are born, they haven't developed the sucking mechanism, so they are usually bottle-fed. It's a wonder they live at all, and it's a crime they aren't getting DHA in their bottles from birth.

Maybe that's why kids are dumber these days.

In spite of over a thousand letters from researchers and pediatricians across the nation, pleading and demanding that the FDA do something to "ensure the health and welfare of our children" by mandating or at least allowing the addition of DHA to infant formula, nothing has happened.

There's actually a law-the Infant-Formula Act-regulating formula content. It came about as the result of a major company's decision to put "soft water" in its baby formula. "Soft water," low in magnesium and chloride, is great for washing your hair but can be deadly for babies (and actually is not good for you either).

The immediate result of this decision was a rash of infant chloride deficiency: Emergency wards all over the country were filled with severely ill babies, some of them dying. The long-term effect for most would probably have been heart disease at an early age, especially in areas with magnesium-deficient water.

After this disaster, the government stepped in, declaring that formula would now be carefully monitored and controlled, which gave rise to the Infant-Formula Act of 1980. This act gave the FDA full reign over infant formula regulations. So, important discoveries like the need for DHA must now wade through an endless sea of government red tape, putting our nation's infants at serious risk.

DHA has become a standard ingredient in infant formula in various European and Asian countries. A U.S. company, Wyeth Nutritionals, does make infant formula that contains DHA; however, since distribution is banned in the United States, it is marketed only overseas-in Hong Kong, the Middle East, and Australia.

Climbing up the age ladder

DHA also has uses for people other than newborns. Studies have shown a link between DHA deficiency and later diagnoses of attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). reported that "A study done on Japanese students during the high-stress period of final exams showed that students who received DHA supplementation were significantly less aggressive than students who did not."

Now on to you, my patient reader. You are no longer a baby, that's for sure, so why am I giving you all this infant-formula information?

The report also related some findings that may be more relevant to you personally: "low levels of DHA contribute to many major physical and psychological disorders in adults such as depression, aggression, Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, and multiple sclerosis."

Symptoms of multiple sclerosis like muscular weakness, impaired coordination, and disrupted speech and vision have been linked to low DHA(and other fatty acid) levels.

As a final note, the article related the following encouraging news:

"Over 1,200 patients participated in an epidemiological study showing that people with high DHA levels were 45 percent less likely to develop dementia than people with low DHA levels. This suggests that proper DHA intake may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease."

And as if all of these beneifts weren't enough, DHA also helps supply the brain with serotonin, which regulates moods and thereby makes one less vulnerable to stress and depression.

So, do you see? You never know what you'll find among these pages.

Action to take:

1) DHA supplements are available in most health food stores. Take two 200 milligram capsules daily.

2) DHA is also available in liquid form, which can be mixed with infant formula. Consult a physician for dosage recommendations. To locate one in your area, contact the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) at (800)532-3688. RH

References:, Mollie Martin, 8/6/99
Agricultural Research, 9/98
Finnegan, John. The Facts About Facts. Celestial Arts, 1993
"Baby Formula: Missing Key Fats?" Nutrition Action Health Letter. p.8-9, 10/99
Nutrition Today. 3/88, 5/88.
Biochemistry Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 88: 4,835-4,839, 6/91