Omega-3s Helps Cognitive Development in Children

infants, babies, baby, bottle

Omega-3 fatty acids
seem to be popular these days, and there is a very good reason why: they provide many benefits. Those benefits extend to babies, as a recent study shows that infants given long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCPUFA) supplements perform better on standardized tests when they are older. The study looked at the effects of LCPUFA consumption on cognitive development. The researcher’s objective was to evaluate cognitive abilities of children from 18 months to six years old who were given docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) as infants, compared with children not given LCPUFA as infants.

A total of 81 children participated in a double-blind, randomized trial of LCPUFA supplementation. What the researchers found is that although there were no significant differences observed at 18 months, from three to five years there were “significant positive results” observed on rule-learning and inhibition tasks. “The data from this relatively small trial suggest that, although the effects of LCPUFAs may not always be evident on standardized developmental tasks at 18 mo, significant effects may emerge later on more specific or fine-grained tasks,” the researchers concluded.

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Other research shows there are benefits to LCPUFA supplemented formula. A 2007 study reviewed trials on LCPUFA supplemented formula in infants and found that it has a beneficial effect on the neurodevelopment of infants until four months old. However, the researchers concluded that “the studies could not demonstrate a consistent positive effect beyond that age.” Fast forward four years to a 2011 study on the effects of LCPUFA supplementation on infants. Researchers analyzed the effects of LCPUFA supplemented formula on infants born prematurely who were given the formula from birth to nine months old. The researchers followed the children for nine years, and found that the girls showed “beneficial effects of LCPUFAs on literacy.” They also found increases in verbal IQ, full-scale IQ, and memory scores for both genders given the supplemented formula.

A year later, researchers published a study that analyzed 19 studies involving 1,949 infants. What they found it that LCPUFA supplementation had a “significant benefit...on infants visual acuity.” They concluded that “current evidence suggests that LCPUFA supplementation of infant formulas improves infants’ visual acuity up to 12 months of age.”

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Photo Credit: nettsu

By Andrea Donsky| July 19, 2013
Categories:  Eat

About the Author

Andrea Donsky

Andrea Donsky

Founder & Chief Passionista at See my full bio here.

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