Are both DHA and EPA needed for prenatal health?
There have been a few studies published using infant formula containing omega-3 fatty acid via soybean oil providing alpha-linolenic acid (LNA) where such formula without and with the addition of algal DHA omega-3 (devoid of EPA) have been studied in full-term infants. In some of these studies, supportive evidence for a better overall functioning in terms of mental development index and visual acuity in infants consuming the DHA-containing formula as compared to the DHA-deprived formula have been reported. However, these studies were not performed using lesser amounts of EPA added to such DHA products at levels similar to those found in breast milk from various countries. Thus, evidence for any potential added benefit of smaller amounts of EPA in addition to the higher amounts of DHA cannot be commented upon. Some of the earlier studies suggested that high levels of EPA may possibly adversely reduce the arachidonic acid (AA omega-6) status in infants which has led to evidence in support of DHA presence with or without lesser amounts of EPA. Numerous studies have supported the benefits of consuming fish as a source of DHA/EPA (combined) during pregnancy and lactation for corresponding better outcomes in long-term follow up of their offspring (some studies have followed the children up to 8 years of age). It is noteworthy that all fish contain DHA+EPA (combined).The dietetic associations in North America recently released an overall recommended intake of 500 mg per day for normal healthy adults. It is also noteworthy that recent European recommendations have advocated a consumption of at least 200 mg of DHA omega-3 per day in pregnant women.