Submitted to: Pediatric Research
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/1/2004
Publication Date: 4/1/2004
Citation: Jensen, C., Voigt, R., Llorente, A., Peters, S., Prager, T., Zou, Y., Fraley, K., Heird, W. 2004. Effects of maternal docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation on neuropsychological and visual status of former breast-fed infants at five years of age [abstract]. Pediatric Research. 55(4):181A.
Technical Abstract: Background: DHA, a major component of the structural phospholipids of brain and retinal cell membranes, is thought by some to be an essential nutrient for infants. Indeed, some studies suggest that low dietary intake during infancy is associated with short-term adverse effects on visual and neural development. However, whether these effects persist is not known. Objective: To assess the importance of DHA intake during early infancy on later visual and neural development. Design/Methods: In an ongoing study, breastfeeding mothers were randomly and blindly assigned to receive either 200 mg/d of DHA (n=89) or a placebo (n=85 ) from delivery until 4 mo postpartum, with assessment of visual/neuropsychological functions of the infants at 4, 8, 12, 18, 30, and 60 mo of age. Results: No differences were observed in any of several measures of visual function or neurodevelopment until 30 mo of age when, as previously reported, the Bayley PDI of infants whose mothers received DHA (n=82) was 0.55 SD higher (p less than 0.01) than that of infants whose mothers received placebo (n=75). At 5 yrs of age, there were no differences in visual function as assessed by Teller Acuity Cards, transient visual evoked potential (VEP) or sweep VEP between children whose mothers received DHA (n=71) vs. placebo (n=70). There also was no difference in steroacuity between groups. Those whose mothers received DHA (n=71) vs. placebo (n=70) performed significantly better on the Sustained Attention Subtest of the Leiter International Performance Scale (46.5 +/- 8.9 vs 41.9 +/- 9.3, p less than 0.008), but there were no statistically significant differences between groups in tests of gross and fine motor, executive, perceptual/visual or verbal domains. Conclusions: Five-year-old children whose mothers received DHA vs. placebo for the first 4 mo of breastfeeding performed better on a test of sustained attention than those whose mothers received placebo. Since attentiveness is not easily assessed at 30 mo of age but is necessary for satisfactory completion of the Bayley Scales, the better Bayley PDI of the supplemented group at 30 mo may reflect more sustained attention rather than better motor function.