Studies of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) intake and status in US toddlers are lacking. One national survey found low DHA intakes. The objectives of this double-blind, randomized study were to (a) determine usual DHA intakes, (b) measure the effect of consuming formulas with DHA on red blood cell (RBC) and plasma DHA and (c) record adverse events in US children between 18 and 36 months of age.

Children aged 18-36 months were provided 237-ml formula with 0, 43, or 130 mg DHA per day for 60 days. Blood was obtained at 0 and 60 days and 24-hour dietary recalls at 0, 30 and 60 days. Usual median daily DHA intake was 13.3 mg. RBC DHA increased in a dose-dependent manner with increasing DHA intake (p<0.05).

Toddlers consuming the formula with 130 mg DHA per day have fewer adverse events (p=0.007) and a lower incidence of respiratory illness (p=0.024), compared to the formula without DHA. US toddlers have low DHA intake and status. Modest increases in DHA intake in toddlers might improve development, including respiratory health.