Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids at birth and cognitive function at 7 y of age

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jan;57(1):89-95. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601506.


Objective: During the central nervous system (CNS) growth spurt, rapid accretion of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) takes place. This particularly concerns docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) and arachidonic acid (AA, 20:4n-6), which are thought to play important roles in CNS development and function. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between cognitive performance at 7 y of age and LCPUFA levels in umbilical venous plasma phospholipids, representing the prenatal fatty acid availability, and in plasma phospholipids sampled at 7 y.

Design: As part of a follow-up study, the cognitive performance of 306 children, born at term, was assessed at 7 y of age with the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children. Backward stepwise regression analysis was used to study the relationship between the outcomes and LCPUFA status. Social class, maternal intelligence and parenting skills were included as covariables, among others.

Results: Results show no significant association with either DHA or AA at birth and the cognitive performance at 7 y of age. The LCPUFA levels at 7 y were not associated with these outcomes either. Consistent with the literature, significant relationships were found between cognitive outcome measures and maternal education, maternal intelligence and the child's birthweight.

Conclusions: In conclusion, our results do not provide evidence for a positive association between cognitive performance at 7 y and LCPUFA status at birth or at 7 y of age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arachidonic Acid / blood
  • Birth Weight / physiology
  • Central Nervous System / growth & development*
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / blood
  • Educational Status
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / blood*
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn / blood*


  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Arachidonic Acid