Background: In developing countries, dietary intakes of arachidonic acid (ARA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in early life are lower than current recommended levels. This review specifically focusses on the contribution that complementary feeding makes to ARA and DHA intakes in medium- to low-income countries. The aims of the review are (1) to determine the availability of ARA and DHA food sources in developing countries, (2) to estimate the contribution of complementary feeding to dietary intakes of ARA and DHA in infants aged 6-36 months, and (3) to relate the dietary ARA and DHA intake data to key socioeconomic and health indicators.
Summary: The primary dietary data was collected by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) using Food Balance Sheets, and fatty acid composition was based on the Australian food composition tables. There is evidence of wide variation in per capita dietary intake for both DHA and ARA food sources, with low intakes of meat and seafood products being highly prevalent in most low-income countries. In children aged 6-36 months, the supply of ARA and DHA from the longer duration of breastfeeding in low-income countries is counterbalanced by the exceptionally low provision of ARA and DHA from complementary foods. The lowest tertile for ARA intake is associated with higher percentages of childhood stunting, birth rate, infant mortality, and longer duration of breast feeding.
Key Message: In developing countries, intakes of DHA and ARA from complementary foods are low, and public health organisations need to adopt pragmatic strategies that will ensure that there is a nutritional safety net for the most vulnerable infants.
- Infants and children
- Developing countries
- Docosahexaenoic acid
- Arachidonic acid
- Complementary feeding