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

Tue, 08/13/2013

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.



Matt Menzenski, a graduate student in Slavic languages & literatures, took this photo during President Obama’s speech at KU Thursday. Menzenski says he was struck by how relaxed the president was in his delivery. He missed a chance to hear former President Bill Clinton speak in his hometown in 2004, but finally got to see a sitting president this week at KU. “The opportunity to hear the president speak is just one of many great opportunities I've had at KU. So many interesting talks and events happen here all the time. I try to attend at least one a week-- it's never hard to find something interesting to go to.” Tags: University of Kansas College of Liberal Arts and Sciences KU School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures KU Dept of Slavic Languages - Friends & Alumni Barack Obama The White House #exploreKU #POTUSatKU

#RockChalk to Dana Adkins-Heljeson of @KSgeology , recipient of the Outstanding Support Staff Recognition Award. http://t.co/PbwFlzZD8W
Explore KU: The Bells of Mount Oread KU’s Campanile, a 120-foot-tall timepiece that tolls automatically on the hour and quarter-hour, not only sounded in the 2015 New Year at midnight with 12 mighty gongs, but also regularly rings up memories for many Jayhawks – the 277 faculty and students who gave their lives during World War II, the graduates who walk through its doors at commencement, and aspiring students who have strolled through the Lawrence campus. (See http://bit.ly/1xjjwJj). For nearly 60 years, KU’s 53-bell carillon has been tolling the sounds of peace and serenity across Mount Oread since it was installed in June 1955 inside the landmark World War II Memorial Campanile, which was dedicated in 1951. (See http://bit.ly/1BoL9jv) The carillon is also a four-octave musical instrument, which is played with a giant keyboard and foot pedals. University Carillonneur Elizabeth Egber-Berghout (http://bit.ly/14fiBPl), associate professor of carillon and organ, climbs 77 steps up a spiral staircase in the bell tower to perform recitals several times a month.


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