DHA and Allergies, Asthma, or Eczema

Dr. Greene reports on a study of the benefits to babies of DHA, an important omega-3 fatty acid found in breast milk and some formulas.

Getting plenty of Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), one of the important omega-3 fats found in breast milk, could help to prevent allergies, asthma, and eczema in young children. Dr. Eileen Birch, who has previously studied links between DHA and improved mental and visual development, followed 89 formula-fed children who received formula with or without this fat included.

Her results were presented at the 2008 Pediatric Societies Meeting. Strikingly, more than half of the children fed standard formula throughout the first year had been diagnosed with some form of allergy by the third birthday. By comparison, allergies, asthma, or eczema had been diagnosed in only 26 percent of those who were fed DHA formula for a year.

This small randomized study does not prove that DHA reduces allergies, but the idea is intriguing. Omega-3 fats including this one are useful in reducing inflammation. Clearly, babies are designed to receive DHA in their diets.

I enthusiastically support the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics that babies breastfeed throughout the first year, when possible, and for as long after that as both the mother and the baby desire. If nursing stops before age two or three, I recommend that babies get DHA from another source.

DHA is a valuable nutrient throughout life, but it is especially important for developing babies from before birth through age three.

Published on: May 26, 2008
About the Author
Photo of Dr. Alan Greene
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Recent Comments

dear doctor
with thanks
i need further study to support the fact that DHA in milk good for b.asthma or prevent from asthma in children less than 3 years
thanks for your information
with my best regards
dr.khaldoun marwan zen el abedeen
specialist family medicine