Food and Behaviour Research

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The role of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in infant cognitive development.

Willatts P, Forsyth JS. (2000) Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids.  63(1-2) 95-100 

Web URL: View this and related abstracta via Pub Med here


Dietary long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) in infancy are necessary for normal brain growth and development, and may play an important role in the development of infant cognition.

Several randomized, controlled studies have evaluated the effects of feeding both term and preterm infants formula containing LCPUFA or no LCPUFA on a variety of measures of cognitive behaviour.

Studies of the relation of LCPUFA to performance on tests of psychomotor development have produced inconsistent results, with supplemented infants demonstrating either higher scores or no differences in comparison to controls. This pattern suggests that global tests of development may be insufficiently sensitive for detecting the effects of LCPUFA on infant cognitive function.

In contrast, studies assessing the influence of LCPUFA on development of specific cognitive behaviours have shown a significant advantage for supplemented infants on measures of visual attention and problem solving. These results suggest that LCPUFA may enhance more efficient information processing or attention regulation in infants.

Whether there are any long-term effects of dietary LCPUFA in infancy on childhood cognition is not known.