Baby Formula DHA Linked with Diarrhea, Dehydration, Seizures

This is interesting because we have long known that naturally occuring omega-3 fatty acids are essential for optimal brain and tissue development, circulatory function, and heart health, as well as a host of other things. They are prominent in human breastmilk, giving babies a normal (healthy) start in life. However, in their additive form - or synthetically derived - they do not act within the body in the same manner.

DHA Algae Oil

A common ingredient in infant formula was found to be linked to diarrhea, severe dehydration and seizures in babies, according to complaints submitted to the FDA.

A shocking report has been released on the adverse health effects of fatty acid supplements found in infant formulas. The Cornucopia Institute, a US-based corporate watchdog group, presented their findings on the fatty acids DHA and ARA, which are now commonly added to formula.

The report is based on a Freedom of Information Act request that the Cornucopia Institute filed with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the result of which was the uncovering of 98 reports filed by parents and physicians detailing incidences when babies had reacted adversely to formula containing DHA/ARA. The reported incidences range from cases of vomiting and diarrhea that stopped when babies switched to non-DHA/ARA formula to babies being treated in intensive care units for severe dehydration and seizures.

The FDA has never been convinced of the safety of DHA/ARA additives, according to the report. In its initial analysis of the additives, the FDA stated it had reached no determination on their safety status. The administration also noted that some studies had reported unexpected deaths among infants who had been fed with DHA/ARA formula. Despite its reservations, inexplicably the FDA did not withhold approval for the additives.

INFACT Canada has long questioned the use of DHA and ARA (also marketed as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids) in infant formula. All major formula companies have added the fatty acids to their products in recent years, claiming that they aid in brain and eye development. However, most test results have found the additives have negligible effects on infant development. But because DHA and ARA are found in their natural form within breastmilk, formula companies market DHA/ARA additive formula as "closer to breastmilk."

Martek Biosciences Corporation, the company that supplies almost all formula companies with DHA/ARA, has admitted that the purpose of the additives is not to encourage healthy development, but to be used as a marketing tool. In its promotional material to encourage investment, Martek stated:

"Infant formula is currently a commodity market, with all products being almost identical and marketers competing intensely to differentiate their product. Even if [DHA/ARA] 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 'closer to human milk.'"

While DHA and ARA are found naturally in breast milk, the idea that Martek's manufactured acids make formula closer to breast milk is ridiculous. Martek produces DHA and ARA from fermented algae and fungus, and uses hexane (a neurotoxin) in the manufacturing process. Simply adding these synthetic substances to formula cannot make artificial baby milk behave like breast milk, which is a complex, living substance that provides babies with the best possible nutrition and immunological protection and development.

Regular infant formula puts babies' health at risk, but now infants are being harmed for the sake of a marketing tool. This is an egregious case of formula companies putting profit margins above infant health. In light of this report, it is imperative that all parents be made aware of the potential risks of feeding their babies formula with DHA/ARA. The products should be pulled from the market until their safety can be properly assessed by independent investigations.

Babies should not have to get sick just because companies want to raise their sales figures.

For the full report, see:


  1. This is just ridiculous! We recently adopted a newborn. He's almost 7 months old now. We have fed him formula containing these additives since birth. We use the Costco store brand, Kirkland, and have never used anything else aside from what we came home with from the hospital. I felt confident that it was okay being as all my research before hand seemed to conclude that all formula was pretty much the same. Figures, I just bought two big cans today. Although, he has never had any adverse reactions. I do, however, add accidophilous to each bottle first thing in the morning. This is something I will definitely have to consider for future purchases.

  2. It amazes me that this is allowed to be given to infants and marketed as "being closer to breastmilk" because of their synthetic garbage. Every time I see a formula commercial state "our formula is closer to breastmilk than ever before" I have to fight the urge to chuck my remote control through the screen. And even with this piece of information out, I feel as though it will not deter pregnant mothers and new mothers from purchasing formula for their newborns. There will always be the "I was fed formula and I'm just fine" excuse.

  3. This is not okay! We have to figure out how to take a stand, & demand that the FDA do their job, & only approve things that are SAFE! I exclusively breastfeed my kids, but there are some mothers who for whatever reason, cannot & have to depend on formula. I don't agree with feeding babies formula, but I guess in some situations, it might be the only option to feed their babies! We cannot have babies getting sick & dying just because some companies want to fatten their wallets! How can we tell our government that we expect more? That they need to do their jobs, & not take money to push food & drugs through with out the proper research!

  4. This is very intersting to me. I am almost 5 months pregnant and not being able to breastfeed runs in my family. I will def have to do some digging into this one!



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