Еffects of fortified milk on cognitive abilities in school-aged children: results from a randomized-controlled trial

Abstract

Background

Micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals and long-chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids (PUFAs) are essential for children’s brain development and cognitive functions. The current study investigated whether milk fortified with micronutrients and PUFA can result in improved cognitive function in mainstream school children.

Methods

One-hundred-and-nineteen children (age 8–14, 58 boys) were randomly allocated to a fortified milk group or a regular full milk control group. Participants consumed 0.6L/day of the milk for 5 months. We recorded relevant biochemical, anthropometric, and cognitive measures (working memory and processing speed) at the start of the study and at follow-up after 5 months.

Results

The fortified milk significantly increased docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (change from baseline of 28% [95% CI 17–39%] vs. −6% [95% CI − 13 to 0%] in the control group) and serum 25OH-vitamin D concentrations (41% [95% CI 30–52%] vs. 21% [95% CI 11–30%] in the control group). The fortified milk improved working memory on one of two tests (32% [95% CI 17–47%] vs. 13% [95% CI 6–19%] in the control group). The fortified milk also indirectly increased processing speed on one of two tests; this effect was small and completely mediated by increases in 25OH-vitamin D concentrations.

Conclusions

These results suggest that fortifying milk with micronutrients and PUFA could be an effective and practical way to aid children’s cognitive development.

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Acknowledgements

The study was funded by Lactalis Puleva SL. JF is currently employed and ELH was employed by Biosearch Life, which is part of Lactalis. Dafina Petrova is supported by a Juan de la Cierva Fellowship (FJCI-2016-28279) from the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry, and Competitiveness. We would like to thank the schools in Granada that participated in the study: I.E.S. Albayzín de Granada, Colegio Diocesano Virgen del Espino de Chauchina (Granada), and C.E.I.P. Cardenal Cisneros de Villanueva Mesía.

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Correspondence to Dafina Petrova.

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Petrova, D., Bernabeu Litrán, M., García-Mármol, E. et al. Еffects of fortified milk on cognitive abilities in school-aged children: results from a randomized-controlled trial. Eur J Nutr 58, 1863–1872 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-018-1734-x

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Keywords

  • Fortified milk
  • Omega-3
  • PUFA
  • Micronutrients
  • Cognitive abilities
  • Working memory