Long-term effects of prenatal omega-3 fatty acid intake on visual function in school-age children

J Pediatr. 2011 Jan;158(1):83-90, 90.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2010.06.056. Epub 2010 Aug 25.


Objective: To assess the long-term effect on visual development of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (n-3 PUFA) intake during gestation.

Study design: Using visual evoked potentials (VEPs), the long-term effects on visual development were evaluated in 136 school-age Inuit children exposed to high levels of n-3 PUFAs during gestation. VEP protocols using color and motion stimuli were used to assess parvocellular and magnocellular responses. Concentrations of the two major n-3 PUFAs (docosahexaenoic acid [DHA] and eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA]) were measured in umbilical cord and child plasma phospholipids, reflecting prenatal and postnatal exposure, respectively.

Results: After adjustment for confounders, cord plasma DHA level was found to be associated with shorter latencies of the N1 and P1 components of the color VEPs. No effects were found for current n-3 PUFA body burden or motion-onset VEPs.

Conclusion: This study demonstrates beneficial effects of DHA intake during gestation on visual system function at school age. DHA is particularly important for the early development and long-term function of the visual parvocellular pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Development / drug effects
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Prenatal Care*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Time Factors
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3