(NaturalNews) For years, baby formula manufacturers have been fortifying and reformulating their blends in an effort to poise their products as equal or superior to natural breast milk. Beginning in 2002, many producers began supplementing their mixtures with synthetic forms of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA), the long-chain fatty acids naturally present in breast milk. Evidence is now showing that the synthetic versions are detrimental to the health of children, despite their continued usage in almost every available brand of infant formula.
The idea behind fortifying infant formula with DHA/ARA was substantiated based upon the fact that a mother's breast milk naturally contains these polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They are vital components to human eye and brain development, particularly in the formative infant years. The primary distinction is that the form of DHA/ARA being used in infant formula is structurally incompatible with the form found in human milk.
Martek Biosciences Corporation, the company who produces synthetic DHA/ARA, extracts the oils from laboratory-grown fermented algae and fungus using hexane, a demonstrated neurotoxic chemical. Identified as a hazardous air pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), hexane resides in the same category as other serious toxins that are linked to causing cancer and other serious health problems.
Developed primarily as a marketing tool, Martek's 1996 DHA/ARA investment promotional material states that even if the additive had no demonstrable benefit, it would nevertheless allow manufacturers to market their formulas as being the "closest to human milk". Formula manufacturers quickly jumped on the bandwagon despite definitive evidence proving the additive's safety.
Recently implicated in causing severe reactions in some babies, including breathing problems, gastrointestinal upset, and other illnesses, synthetic DHA/ARA is on the hot seat. Parents and professionals alike are questioning why the additive is still being used in almost every available brand of infant formula and why the companies using the additive are being allowed to claim that their product is superior to human breast milk, despite the hundreds of mounting FDA adverse event reports indicating its dangers.
Whether the culprit is the DHA/ARA itself, the hexane extraction residue, or both, it is anyone's guess since no formidable scientific safety studies were conducted prior to the additive's introduction into the formula market. Prior to hitting the market, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expressed concern to Martek about the safety of the new additive, indicating that the agency desired to convene a formal meeting to address the issue. Martek denied this request and, shortly thereafter, the FDA reversed its previous stance and approved the additive's use despite the lack of any independent scientific safety review.
Since that time, Freedom of Information Act requests have revealed hundreds of FDA adverse event reports that have gone unnoticed by the FDA who has failed to act in conducting an investigation. Typically, a few well-documented adverse event reports are reason enough to conduct a product investigation; several hundred would indicate an immediate need for scrutiny.
Many empirical reports indicate that sick babies who were taken off formula containing synthetic DHA/ARA almost immediately recover from any ailments induced since starting the formula. This indicates a practical connection that deserves further investigation by the agency appointed to perform such analysis, the FDA.
Not only is Martek's DHA/ARA supplement being used in baby formulas, it is now being added to a whole host of foods and nutritional supplements for adults, lauded as a great vegetarian alternative to animal-based oils of the same variety. Since the extraction method involves a known chemical neurotoxin, it is best to avoid this additive anyway.
With or without synthetic additives, no baby formula can replace the amazing nourishing properties of a mother's breast milk. It is the perfect, natural blend of immune-building, brain-developing goodness that cannot be matched or replicated. While some natural formulas may seem to come close, breast-feeding continues to be the superior method of nourishing a baby and should be utilized whenever possible.
Ethan Huff is a freelance writer and health enthusiast who loves exploring the vast world of natural foods and health, digging deep to get to the truth. He runs an online health publication of his own at http://wholesomeherald.blogspot.com.