Malcolm, C.A., Hamilton, R., McCulloch, D.L., Montgomery, C., Weaver, L.T. (2003) Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 44(8) 3685-91.
PURPOSE: To test the hypothesis that the supplementation of the diets of pregnant women with a fish oil rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) enhances retinal development in their healthy term infants, as measured during the early postnatal period by the electroretinogram (ERG). METHODS: One hundred pregnant women were randomized to receive either a fish oil (n = 50) or a placebo oleic acid dietary supplement (n = 50) from 15 weeks of pregnancy until delivery. Total fatty acids in red blood cells (RBCs) and plasma were measured in mothers at 15 and 28 weeks of pregnancy and at delivery and in their infants in umbilical cord blood. Infant retinal development was assessed within the first week of life with full-field ERGs that included a scotopic blue intensity series (n = 41) and a bright white flash (2.0 log cd-s/m(2); n = 44). RESULTS: Infants born of mothers who received supplements did not differ at birth in weight, gestational age, or any other standard variable. Infant DHA status at birth, as measured from umbilical cord blood, did not differ significantly between maternal supplementation groups. ERG implicit times, amplitudes, and parameters of the stimulus-response function did not differ significantly between infants in the maternal supplemented and placebo groups. There was, however, a relationship between infant DHA status and maturity of the retina at birth, regardless of maternal supplementation group. A measure of retinal sensitivity (log sigma) correlated significantly (P < 0.005) with DHA status (as a percentage of total fatty acid; TFA) in infant cord blood. Infants in the highest quartile for cord blood DHA had higher retinal sensitivity compared with infants in the lowest quartile. Infants in the highest quartile for plasma DHA, both as a percentage of TFA and concentration, were born at a significantly later gestational age than were infants in the lower quartiles. CONCLUSIONS: These findings demonstrate an association between the DHA status of term infants and retinal sensitivity, suggesting an essential role of this long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCPUFA) in the development and function of the retina. However, maternal DHA status was not significantly associated with infant retinal sensitivity and no direct effect of maternal supplementation was observed.