Effects of maternal docosahexaenoic acid intake on visual function and neurodevelopment in breastfed term infants

Craig L. Jensen, Robert G. Voigt, Thomas Prager, Yali L. Zou, J. Kennard Fraley, Judith C. Rozelle, Marie R. Turcich, Antolin M. Llorente, Robert E. Anderson, William C. Heird

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

198 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Normal brain and visual development is thought to require exogenous docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6n-3) intake, but the amount needed is debatable. Because the supplementation of breastfeeding mothers with DHA increases the DHA content of their infants' plasma lipids, we hypothesized that it might also improve brain or visual function in the infants. Objective: The objective was to determine the effect of DHA supplementation of breastfeeding mothers on neurodevelopmental status and visual function in the recipient infant. Design: Breastfeeding women received capsules containing either a high-DHA algal oil (≈200 mg DHA/d) or a vegetable oil (no DHA) for 4 mo after delivery. Outcome variables included the fatty acid pattern of maternal plasma phospholipid and milk lipids 4 mo postpartum, the fatty acid pattern of plasma phospholipids and visual function in infants at 4 and 8 mo of age, and neurodevelopmental indexes of the infants at 12 and 30 mo of age. Results: Milk lipid and infant plasma phospholipid DHA contents of the supplemented and control groups were ≈75% and ≈35% higher, respectively, at 4 mo postpartum. However, neither the neurodevelopmental indexes of the infants at 12 mo of age nor the visual function at 4 or 8 mo of age differed significantly between groups. In contrast, the Bayley Psychomotor Development Index, but not the Mental Development Index, of the supplemented group was higher (P < 0.01) at 30 mo of age. Conclusion: DHA supplementation of breastfeeding mothers results in higher infant plasma phospholipid DHA contents during supplementation and a higher Bayley Psychomotor Development Index at 30 mo of age but results in no other advantages either at or before this age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-132
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Volume82
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2005

Keywords

  • Bayley Scales of Infant Development
  • Fatty acid pattern of milk lipid
  • Infant neurodevelopmental indexes
  • Infant plasma phospholipid fatty acid pattern
  • Infant visual function
  • Maternal docosahexaenoic acid supplementation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science

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