Objective: To determine the influence of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA; 18 : 3omega3) intake and, hence, the influence of plasma and/or erythrocyte phospholipid content of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22 : 6omega3) during early infancy on neurodevelopmental outcome of term infants.
Methods: The Bayley Scales of Infant Development (second edition), the Clinical Adaptive Test/Clinical Linguistic and Auditory Milestone Scale (CAT/CLAMS) and the Gross Motor Scale of the Revised Gesell Developmental Inventory were administered at a mean age of 12.26 +/- 0.94 months to 44 normal term infants enrolled in a study evaluating the effects of infant formulas differing only in ALA content (0.4, 1.0, 1.7 and 3.2% of total fatty acids).
Results: As reported previously [Jensen et al., Lipids 13 (1996) 107; J. Pediatr. 131 (1997) 200], the group fed the formula with the lowest ALA content had the lowest mean plasma and erythrocyte phospholipid DHA contents at 4 months of age. This group also had the lowest mean score on every neurodevelopmental measure. The difference in mean gross motor developmental quotient of this group versus the group fed the formula with 1.0% ALA but not of the other groups was statistically significant (P < 0.05). Across the groups, motor indices correlated positively with each other and with the plasma phospholipid DHA content at 4 months of age (P=0.02-0.03). The CLAMS developmental quotient correlated with the erythrocyte phospholipid content of 20 : 5omega3 (P < 0.01) but not with DHA.
Conclusions: These statistically significant correlations suggest that the omega3 fatty acid status during early infancy may be important with respect to neurodevelopmental status at 1 year of age and highlight the need for further studies of this possibility.