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Jensen, C. L.1; Voigt, R. G.2; Llorente, A. M.1; Peters, S. U.1; Prager, T. C.3; Zou, Y.3; Fraley, J. K.1; Heird, W. C.1

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition: June 2004 - Volume 39 - Issue - p S10
ABSTRACTS: Oral Presentation Abstracts

1 Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, 2 Pediatrics, The Mayo Clinic, Rochester, 3 Ophthalmology, University of Texas Health Sciences Center, Houston, United States

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Introduction: DHA, a major component of the structural phospholipids of brain and retinal 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. The objective of this study was to assess the importance of DHA intake during early infancy on later visual and neural development.

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 and visual/neuropsychological functions of the infants have been assessed 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<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 Bailey-Lovie acuity chart, 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 stereoacuity 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<0.008) but there were no statistically significant differences between groups in tests of gross and fine motor, executive, perceptual/visual or verbal domains.

Conclusion: 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 of age may reflect more sustained attention rather than better motor function.

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.