DHA’s Brain Health Benefits May Emerge in Later Childhood

kidThe potential brain health benefits of increased intake of DHA at birth may take several years to emerge, according to data from a small cohort of children.

Infants fed formula with higher levels of DHA did not always show cognitive effects at 18 months of age, but significant effects for vocabulary, rule-learning, and intelligence when measured at three years and above, report researchers from the University of Kansas.

“The data from this trial suggest benefits on several measures of cognitive development into early childhood after omega-3 provision for the first 12 months of life,” they wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. “Specifically, DHA supplementation in infancy was associated with improved performance on several assessments of executive function and on verbal measures derived from standardized tests at 5 and 6 years.

“We believe that these outcomes are worth evaluating in future trials of omega-3 supplementation. “We also believe that studies to improve nutrition with the hypothesis of enhancing cognitive function should be powered to include similar assessments into childhood, and cognition in general, because our data suggest that improving LCPUFA status during an early and finite period may have lasting effects on cognitive function through childhood.”

Commenting independently on the results, Harry Rice, PhD, VP of regulatory & scientific affairs for the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED) told us: “Despite the small number of subjects in the study, in a cohort of children followed since birth, these investigators extended their cognitive assessment of children from 18 months to 6 years. “The results are further testimony to the importance of DHA for cognitive development.”

Led by John Colombo, the researchers evaluated cognition in 81 children fed infant formula with different levels of DHA (0.32%, 0.64%, and 0.96% of total fatty acids) and 0.64% ARA for the first their 12 months and followed until age six.

Results showed that, compared with children who were not given omega-3 as infants, there were no significant differences in tests of language and performance at 18 months of age, but significant positive effects were observed for rule-learning and inhibition tasks, vocabulary, and IQ from three to six years of age.

The effects were mostly observed in the groups receiving the lower doses (DHA at 0.32% and 0.64%), except for cognitive performance on one of the standardized tests, for which the higher dose group (0.64% and 0.96% DHA) showed better performance.

No differences between the groups were observed in terms of spatial memory or advanced problem solving.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
“Long-term effects of LCPUFA supplementation on childhood cognitive outcomes”
Authors: J. Colombo, S.E. Carlson, C.L. Cheatham, D.J. Shaddy, E.H. Kerling, J.M. Thodosoff, K.M. Gustafson, C. Brez

Weekly Abstracts:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk

PROSTATE CANCER – Omega-3 Fatty Acids

“The relevance of serum levels of long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and prostate cancer risk: A meta-analysis,” Chua ME, Sio MC, et al, Can Urol Assoc J, 2013 May; 7(5-6): E333-43. (Address: Institute of Urology and Research and Biotechnology Division, St. Luke’s Medical Center, Philippines).

In a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies analyzing the effects of long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on prostate cancer risk, a total of 12 studies were included in the analysis, and a significant negative association was found between omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and total prostate cancer risk (RR=0.756).

Vitamin D Levels Associated with Body Composition and Physical Fitness in Adolescents


“Cardiorespiratory fitness in males, and upper limbs muscular strength in females, are positively related with 25-hydroxyvitamin D plasma concentrations in European adolescents: the HELENA study,” Valtueña J, Gracia-Marco L et al, QJM, 2013 May 8; [Epub ahead of print]. (Address: The ImFine Research Group, Department of Health and Human Performance, Faculty of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences (INEF), Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Avda/Martín Fierro 7, 28040, Madrid, Spain).

In a study involving 1,006 European adolescents (470 males) aged 12.5 to 17.5 years, adiposity in males and low fat free mass in females were both linked to vitamin D deficiency. For males, maximum oxygen consumption and body mass index were independently related to 25(OH)D concentrations. For females, handgrip strength was independently linked with 25(OH)D concentrations. Adolescents with a lower BMI and high fitness score presented significantly greater 25(OH)D concentrations than those with a lower fitness score in the other BMI groups. The authors conclude that interaction between fitness and BMI has a positive effect on 25(OH)D concentrations and that “therapeutic interventions to correct the high rates of vitamin D deficiency in adolescents should consider physical fitness.”

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