Omega-3 Rich Infant Formula may Lead to Higher Intelligence

intellConsumption of a DHA-enriched formula in infancy may be linked to positive cognitive outcomes in childhood, according to new research data.

Infants fed a formula enriched with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) from birth to 12 months scored significantly better than a control group on several measures of intelligence conducted between the ages of three to six years, revealed the research team behind the study.

Writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the US-based researchers said that children who had consumed the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)-rich formula showed increased development in detailed tasks involving pattern discrimination, rule-learning and inhibition as well as better performance on two widely-used standardized tests of intelligence.

“These results support the contention that studies of nutrition and cognition should include more comprehensive and sensitive assessments that are administered multiple times through early childhood,” said Professor John Colombo from the University of Kansas, who directed the study. “The results imply that studies of nutrition and cognitive development should be powered to continue through early childhood,” added the researchers.

Colombo and his team randomised 81 infants to be fed one of four formulas from birth to 12 months; three with varying levels of two LCPUFAs (DHA and ARA) and one formula with no LCPUFA. The children were tested every six months from the age of 18 months until six years of age using age-appropriate standardized and specific cognitive tests such as the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test at age five and the Wechsler Primary Preschool Scales of Intelligence at age six, explained the team.

At 18 months the children did not perform any better on standardized tests of performance and intelligence, but by age three the team began to see significant differences in the performance of children who were fed the enriched formulas on finer-grained, laboratory-based measures of several aspects of cognitive function, said Colombo.

The team said that ‘significant positive effects’ were observed from ages three to five years on rule-learning and inhibition tasks,- including Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test and the Wechsler Primary Preschool Scales of Intelligence.

However beneficial effects of the omega-3 rich formula were not found in tasks of spatial memory, simple inhibition, or advanced problem solving, they said.

Weekly Abstracts:

Fish Oil Fat Emulsion Supplementation May Reduce the Risk of Retinopathy and Cholestasis in Pretern Infants


“Fish-Oil Fat Emulsion Supplementation Reduces the Risk of Retinopathy in Very Low Birth Weight Infants: A Prospective, Randomized Study,” Pawlik D, Lauterbach R, et al, JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr, 2013 Aug 20; [Epub ahead of print]. (Address: Department of Neonatology, Jagiellonian University Medical College, Kraków, Poland).

In a randomized study involving 130 preterm infants of very low birth weight (weighing less than 1250 g at birth), supplementation with an IV fat emulsion containing fish oil was found to be associated with less retinopathy requiring laser treatment and less cholestasis, as compared to infants who received a standard lipid emulsion. Infants were randomized into 2 groups – Group1 (n=60) received an IV soybean, olive oil, and fish oil emulsion, and Group2 (n=70) received a parenteral soybean and olive oil emulsion. While 22 infants in Group2 required laser therapy for retinopathy, only 9 infants in the fish oil group required this treatment. Furthermore, while 20 infants in Group2 developed cholestasis, only 3 in the fish oil group developed cholestasis. Mean plasma DHA concentrations in treated infants were 2.9-fold higher in the fish oil group, as compared to the control infants on the 7th and 14th days of life, and the mean DHA content in erythrocytes of treated infants was 4.5-fold and 2.7-fold higher, as c
ompared with controls at 8 and 14 days of age. These results suggest that a lipid emulsion containing fish oil may be significantly more beneficial than a standard lipid emulsion in very low birth weight preterm infants. The authors state, “These infants also had higher plasma and erythrocyte DHA levels at 7 and 14 days, suggesting potential long-term neurodevelopmental benefits.”

High-dose Probiotics May Ameliorate Food Allergy Inflammation


“Probiotic VSL#3-induced TGF-beta ameliorates food allergy inflammation in a mouse model of peanut sensitization through the induction of regulatory T cells in the gut mucosa,” Barletta B, Rossi G, et al, Mol Nutr Food Res, 2013 Aug 14; [Epub ahead of print]. (Address: Department of Infectious, Parasitic and Immune-mediated Diseases, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy).

In a study involving peanut-sensitized mice, supplementation with a very high-dose probiotic (VSL#3) was found to ameliorate anaphylaxis and Th2-mediated inflammation by promoting regulatory responses in the jejunum mucosa and in the mesenteric lymph node. The probiotic induced TGF-beta, and mediates its protective effect through the induction of regulatory T cells expressing FOXP3 and/or latency-associated peptide, “as proven by in vivo blockade of TGF-beta in VSL#3-treated mice with a neutralizing monoclonal antibody one day before challenge.” The authors state, “Probiotics supplementation may represent an effective and safe strategy for treating food allergies in adult population.” Additional research is warranted.

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