Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) may influence the immune system. Our objective was to compare the frequency of common illnesses in infants who received formula with or without added LCPUFAs.

In this observational, multi-center, prospective study, infants consumed formula with 17 mg DHA and 34 mg ARA/100 kcal (n = 233) or with no added DHA or ARA (n = 92). Pediatricians recorded respiratory illnesses, otitis media, eczema, and diarrhea through 1 year of age.

Infants who consumed formula with DHA/ARA had lower incidence of bronchitis/bronchiolitis (P = 0.004), croup (P = 0.044), nasal congestion (P = 0.001), cough (P = 0.014), and diarrhea requiring medical attention (P = 0.034). The odds ratio (OR) of having at least one episode of bronchitis/bronchiolitis (0.41, 95% CI 0.24, 0.70; P = 0.001), croup (0.23, 95% CI 0.05, 0.97; P = 0.045), nasal congestion (0.37, 95% CI 0.20, 0.66; P = 0.001), cough (0.52, 95% CI 0.32, 0.86; P = 0.011), and diarrhea requiring medical attention (0.51, 95% CI 0.28, 0.92; P = 0.026) was lower in infants fed DHA/ARA. The OR of an increased number of episodes of bronchitis/bronchiolitis, croup, nasal congestion, cough, and diarrhea, as well as the hazard ratio for shorter time to first episode of bronchitis/bronchiolitis, nasal congestion, cough, and diarrhea were also significantly lower in the DHA/ARA group.

In healthy infants, formula with DHA/ARA was associated with lower incidence of common respiratory symptoms and illnesses, as well as diarrhea.

PMID: 24989353

See following website for full manuscript.