• arachidonic acid;
  • docosahexaenoic acid;
  • breastfeeding;
  • infant feeding;
  • infant formula;
  • infant feeding behavior


In this observational study, we compared erythrocyte membrane fatty acids in infants consuming formula supplemented with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) with those consuming other types of milks. In 110 infants who were participants in a cohort study of otherwise healthy children at risk for developing type 1 diabetes, erythrocytes were collected at approximately 9 months of age, and fatty acid content was measured as a percentage of total lipids. Parents reported the type of milk the infants consumed in the month of and prior to erythrocyte collection: infant formula supplemented with ARA and DHA (supplemented formula), formula with no ARA and DHA supplements (non-supplemented formula), breast milk, or non-supplemented formula plus breast milk. Membrane DHA (4.42 versus 1.79, P < 0.001) and omega-3 fatty acid (5.81 versus 3.43, P < 0.001) levels were higher in infants consuming supplemented versus non-supplemented formula. Omega-6 fatty acids were lower in infants consuming supplemented versus non-supplemented formula (26.32 versus 29.68, P = 0.023); ARA did not differ between groups. Infants given supplemented formula had higher DHA (4.42 versus 2.81, P < 0.001) and omega-3 fatty acids (5.81 versus 4.45, P = 0.008) than infants drinking breast milk. In infants whose mothers did not receive any dietary advice, use of supplemented formula is associated with higher omega-3 and lower omega-6 fatty acid status.