, Volume 33, Issue 10, pp 973-980

Influence of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids on infant cognitive function

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Abstract

Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) are important for normal visual and cortical development. In a previous study of the effects of LCPUFA on cognitive function of term infants at the age of 3 mon, we indicated that infants with evidence of reduced growth parameters at birth and impaired attention control as manifested by a late peak fixation during infant habituation assessment may benefit from LCPUFA supplementation. The aim of this prospective study was to determine whether LCPUFA supplementation and late peak fixation are related to means-end problem-solving ability in these same infants at the age of 9 mon. Term infants (58) were randomized to one of two formulas containing either LCPUFA or no LCPUFA and completed 4 mon of feeding with their formula. Cognitive function was assessed at 3 mon of age by measures of infant habituation. Infants (20 LCPUFA and 20 no-LCPUFA) completed the problem-solving assessment at 9 mon. The no-LCPUFA group had lower scores on both measures of intention and number of solutions, but neither of these differences was significant. Analysis of covariance for the effects of group and peak fixation, covaried with gestation and birth weight, showed that the number of solutions was significantly reduced in the late peak-fixation infants receiving no LCPUFA (P<0.02). Intention scores tended to be reduced in this group (P<0.06). The late peak-fixation infants who received LCPUFA had solution and intention scores similar to early peak-fixation infants receiving LCPUFA or no LCPUFA. These findings suggest that in term infants who have reduced growth parameters at birth and who show evidence of impaired attention control, information processing and problem-solving ability in infancy may be enhanced by LCPUFA supplementation.

Based on a presentation at the AOCS Meeting on PUFA in Infant Nutrition: Consensus and Controversies, Barcelona, November 7–9, 1996.