DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and AA (arachidonic acid) are both crucial to the optimal development of the brain and eyes. The importance of DHA and AA in infant nutrition is well established, and both substances are routinely added to infant formulas. Excessive amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio have been linked with pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in modern diets is approximately 15:1, whereas ratios of 2:1 to 4:1 have been associated with reduced mortality from cardiovascular disease, suppressed inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and decreased risk of breast cancer. Some researchers have suggested that there is not very strong evidence for the benefits of these ratios, and that it may be better to increase the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids rather than decrease the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids because a reduction of polyunsaturated fats in the diet would increase the incidence of cardiovascular disease.
Two other useful procedures for preparing carboxylic acids involve hydrolysis of nitriles and carboxylation of organometallic intermediates. As shown in the following diagram, both methods begin with an organic halogen compound and the carboxyl group eventually replaces the halogen. Both methods require two steps, but are complementary in that the nitrile intermediate in the first procedure is generated by a S N 2 reaction, in which cyanide anion is a nucleophilic precursor of the carboxyl group. The hydrolysis may be either acid or base-catalyzed, but the latter give a carboxylate salt as the initial product.
In the second procedure the electrophilic halide is first transformed into a strongly nucleophilic metal derivative, and this adds to carbon dioxide (an electrophile). The initial product is a salt of the carboxylic acid, which must then be released by treatment with strong aqueous acid.