DHA-enriched formula in infancy linked to positive cognitive outcomes in childhood

Tue, 08/13/2013

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Karen Henry
Life Span Institute
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LAWRENCE — University of Kansas scientists have found that infants who were fed 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 3 to 6 years.

John ColomboSpecifically, the children showed accelerated development on detailed tasks involving pattern discrimination, rule-learning and inhibition between the ages of 3 to 5 years of age as well as better performance on two widely used standardized tests of intelligence: the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test at age 5 and the Weschler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence at age 6.

“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 John Colombo, study director and KU professor of psychology.

The results of LCPUFA supplementation studies have been mixed according to Colombo, a neuroscientist who specializes in the measurement of early neurocognitive development, but many of those studies have relied mainly on children’s performance on the Bayley Scal\es of Infant Development at 18 months.

In the randomized, double-blind study, 81 infants were 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. Beginning at 18 months, the children were tested every 6 months until 6 years of age on age-appropriate standardized and specific cognitive tests.

At 18 months the children did not perform any better on standardized tests of performance and intelligence, but by age 3, study directors Colombo and Susan E. Carlson, A. J. Rice Professor of Dietetics and Nutrition at KUMC, 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.

DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is an essential long-chain fatty acid that affects brain and eye development, and babies derive it from their mothers before birth and up to age 2. But the American diet is often deficient in DHA sources such as fish.

ARA or arachidonic acid is another LCPUFA that is present in breast milk and commercial formula.

The study was designed to examine the effects of postnatal DHA at levels that have been found to vary across the world, said study co-director Carlson.

The results on the children’s development from the first 12 months of this study were published in Pediatric Research in 2011, and they showed improved attention and lower heart rate in infants supplemented with any level of LCPUFA. Colombo and Carlson’s earlier work and collaborations influenced infant formula manufacturers to begin adding DHA in 2001.

The study was published ahead of print in the June 2013 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.



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Poet offers insights to Jayhawk experience through wordplay "Welcome to KU. Where questions rest, in stacks of answers from the past. …" Listen to Topher Enneking, a spoken word poet and former KU football player, as he weaves the experience of KU and its traditions through this storytelling and wordplay performance. Learn more about KU traditions at http://www.ku.edu/about/traditions/. Welcome to KU. Where questions rest in stacks of answers from the past. Where dreams crawl out of bed And learn to walk Uphill both ways. Where freshmen stand on stilts And hang from the rafters, While the wheat waves In a fieldhouse Where the Phog rolls in Helping us to see Through the past into the future. Haunting hosts giving handouts in a heritage Too heavy to grasp til you add to it. So it may be born anew, Allowing our boots to stand in the ash of oppression’s hate But shine bright as the sun While war cries of warriors past Ring in our ears long after their battles are won. Memorials telling time, “you don’t have to stand still.” Because the top of the world Is just up that Hill. Where our natural history is an awe-struck echo Of world’s fair and equal Past, present and future, prelude and sequel. Where our flags fly above planes. Where we build in chalks that can’t be erased. Stone edifices made to last So you would walk Past their doors, down their halls And let your voice fill their room. Because only in empty silence can destruction loom. So stand tall. Wrap your arms around this crowd Sing our alma mater and sing it out loud. Let your voice sing in chorus and reach other nations Beckoning new Jayhawks to spark new collaborations Because you are the mortar that will hold these walls upright. Your future Your dreams are why Jayhawks did fight For the tradition before you Was merely prelude For what will come next now that you’re at KU.


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