of Kansas scientists have found that infants who were fed formula enriched with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) from birth to 12 months scored
significantly better than a control group on several measures of intelligence
conducted between the ages of three to six years.
the children showed accelerated development on detailed tasks involving pattern
discrimination, rule-learning and inhibition between the ages of three to five
years of age, as well as better performance on two widely-used standardised
tests of intelligence: the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test at age five and the
Weschler Primary Pre-school Scales of Intelligence at age six.
results support the contention that studies of nutrition and cognition should
include more comprehensive and sensitive assessments that are administered
multiple times through early childhood," said John Colombo, study director
and KU professor of psychology.
of LCPUFA supplementation studies have been mixed according to Colombo, a
neuroscientist who specialises in the measurement of early neurocognitive
development, but many of those studies have relied mainly on children's
performance on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development at 18 months.
randomised, double-blind study, 81 infants were fed one of four formulas from
birth to 12 months; three with varying levels of two LCPUFAs (DHA and ARA) and
one formula with no LCPUFA. Beginning at 18 months, the children were tested
every six months until six years of age on age-appropriate standardised and
specific cognitive tests.
months the children did not perform any better on standardised tests of
performance and intelligence, but by age three study directors Colombo and
Susan E. Carlson, A. J. Rice Professor of Dietetics and Nutrition at KUMC,
began to see significant differences in the performance of children who were
fed the enriched formulas on finer-grained, laboratory-based measures of
several aspects of cognitive function.
DHA or docosahexaenoic acid is an essential
long-chain fatty acid that affects brain and eye development, and babies derive
it from their mothers before birth and up to age two. But the American diet is
often deficient in DHA sources such as fish.
arachidonic acid is another LCPUFA that is present in breast milk and
was designed to examine the effects of postnatal DHA at levels that have been
found to vary across the world, said study co-director Carlson.
on the children's development from the first 12 months of this study were
published in Paediatric Research in 2011, and showed improved attention and
lower heart rate in infants supplemented with any level of LCPUFA. Colombo and
Carlson's earlier work and collaborations influenced infant formula
manufacturers to begin adding DHA in 2001.
was published ahead of print in the June 2013 issue of the American Journal of