Impact of maternal docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation in the form of a functional food during pregnancy on infant neurodevelopment: A comparison of vision, memory, temperament and problem-solving abilities

Date of Completion

January 2006


Education, Early Childhood|Health Sciences, Nutrition|Psychology, Developmental




The broad objective of this investigation was to assess the impact of a functional food containing docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3, DHA, 300mg/bar, 92 kcal) consumed during pregnancy on infant neurodevelopment. The design was a randomized, longitudinal, double blinded, placebo controlled trial. Intervention was initiated at 24 weeks of pregnancy. ^ In study 1, infant visual acuity was measured at 4 and 6 months of age using the Acuity Card Procedure (ACP). 30 women consumed the intervention (n=16) or the placebo (n=14). Visual acuity at 4 months of age was better in the DHA group (P=0.018, 3.8±1.1 cycles/degree vs. 3.2±0.7 cycles/degree). At 6 months there were no differences between groups (P=0.055, 6.0±1.3 cycles/degree, 2.6±0.3 vs. 5.7±1.8 cycles/degree). ^ In study 2, the Fagan Test of Infant Intelligence (FTII) was administered to infants at 6 and 9 months of age. 36 women consumed the intervention (n=18) or a placebo (n=18). There were no significant differences at 6 or 9 months between groups for any of the FTII outcome variables or over time for the two assessments. ^ In study 3, we investigated infant problem solving abilities. 29 women consumed the intervention (n=14) or a placebo (n=15). The Infant Planning Test was utilized to assess infants. A significant treatment effect was found for total intention score (P=0.017, 8.01±2.35 vs. 6.67±3.0), total intentional solutions (P=0.011, 2.5=1.29 vs. 1.67±1.5) and number of intentional solutions on both cloth (P=0.008, 3.43±1.28 vs. 2.27±1.67) and cover (P=0.004, 2.5±1.29 vs. 1.73±1.62) steps. ^ In study 4, we investigated infant temperament. 38 women consumed the intervention (n=20) or a placebo (n=18). Infant temperament was assessed using the Infant Characteristics Questionnaire (ICQ) at 6 months and the Revised Infant Temperament Questionnaire (RITQ) at 12 months of age. There were no differences between the DHA and placebo groups for ICQ or RITQ. ^ A developmental advantage exists in infants related to DHA consumption during pregnancy vis-à-vis a functional food. Our results provide evidence that this advantage begins in early infancy and continues throughout the first 9 months. ^