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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: CLINICAL NUTRITION IN CHILDREN

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Effect of early maternal docosahexaenoic acid intake on neuropsychological status and visual acuity at five years of age of breast-fed infants

Authors
item Jensen, Craig -
item Voigt, Robert -
item Llorente, Antolin -
item Peters, Sarika -
item Prager, Thomas -
item Zou, Yali -
item Rozelle, Judith -
item Turcich, Marie -
item Fraley, J -
item Anderson, Robert -
item Heird, William -

Submitted to: Journal of Pediatrics
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 3, 2010
Publication Date: December 1, 2010
Citation: Jensen, C.L., Voigt, R.G., Llorente, A.M., Peters, S.U., Prager, T.C., Zou, Y.L., Rozelle, J.C., Turcich, M.R., Fraley, J.K., Anderson, R.E., Heird, W.C. 2010. Effect of early maternal docosahexaenoic acid intake on neuropsychological status and visual acuity at five years of age of breast-fed infants. Journal of Pediatrics. 157(6):900-905.

Interpretive Summary: Having previously reported better psychomotor development at 30 months of age in infants, whose mothers received a docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplement for the first 4 months of lactation, it was considered important to assess this and other aspects of development at later ages. To do this, neuropsychological and visual function of the same children at 5 years of age was determined. Primary outcome variables at 5 years of age were measures of gross and fine motor function, perceptual/visual-motor function, attention, executive function, verbal skills, and visual function. At 5 years of age no differences in gross or fine motor function, perceptual/visual-motor function, attention, executive function, verbal skills or visual function as assessed by the Bailey-Lovie acuity chart, transient visual evoked potential or sweep visual evoked potential testing were detected. However, children whose mothers received DHA versus placebo, performed significantly better on the Sustained Attention Subscale of the Leiter International Performance Scale, but there were no statistically significant differences between groups in other neuropsychological areas. The fact that children whose mothers received small amounts of DHA supplementation for the first 4 months of breastfeeding performed better on a test of sustained attention at 5 years of age and the previously reported better performance of these children at 30 months of age, suggest that taking DHA during early infancy may confer long-term benefits on specific aspects of neurodevelopment.

Technical Abstract: We previously reported better psychomotor development at 30 months of age in infants whose mothers received a docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplement for the first 4 months of lactation. We now assess neuropsychological and visual function of the same children at 5 years of age. Breastfeeding women were assigned to receive identical capsules containing either a high-DHA algal oil or a vegetable oil from delivery until 4 months postpartum. Primary outcome variables at 5 years of age were measures of gross and fine motor function, perceptual/visual-motor function, attention, executive function, verbal skills, and visual function of the recipient children at 5 years of age. There were no differences in visual function as assessed by the Bailey-Lovie acuity chart, transient visual evoked potential or sweep visual evoked potential testing between children whose mothers received DHA versus placebo. Children whose mothers received DHA versus placebo performed significantly better on the Sustained Attention Subscale of the Leiter International Performance Scale but there were no statistically significant differences between groups on other neuropsychological domains. Five-year-old children whose mothers received modest DHA supplementation versus placebo for the first 4 months of breastfeeding performed better on a test of sustained attention. This, along with the previously reported better performance of the children of DHA-supplemented mothers on a test of psychomotor development at 30 months of age, suggests that DHA intake during early infancy confers long-term benefits on specific aspects of neurodevelopment.

Last Modified: 7/31/2014
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