Neurophysiologic and neurobehavioral evidence of beneficial effects of prenatal omega-3 fatty acid intake on memory function at school age

Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 May;93(5):1025-37. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.000323. Epub 2011 Mar 9.

Abstract

Background: The beneficial effects of prenatal and early postnatal intakes of omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) on cognitive development during infancy are well recognized. However, few studies have examined the extent to which these benefits continue to be evident in childhood.

Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the relation of n-3 PUFAs and seafood-contaminant intake with memory function in school-age children from a fish-eating community.

Design: In a prospective, longitudinal study in Arctic Quebec, we assessed Inuit children (n = 154; mean age: 11.3 y) by using a continuous visual recognition task to measure 2 event-related potential components related to recognition memory processing: the FN400 and the late positive component (LPC). Children were also examined by using 2 well-established neurobehavioral assessments of memory: the Digit span forward from Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children, 4th edition, and the California Verbal Learning Test-Children's Version.

Results: Repeated-measures analyses of variance revealed that children with higher cord plasma concentrations of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is an important n-3 PUFA, had a shorter FN400 latency and a larger LPC amplitude; and higher plasma DHA concentrations at the time of testing were associated with increased FN400 amplitude. Cord DHA-related effects were observed regardless of seafood-contaminant amounts. Multiple regression analyses also showed positive associations between cord DHA concentrations and performance on neurobehavioral assessments of memory.

Conclusion: To our knowledge, this study provides the first neurophysiologic and neurobehavioral evidence of long-term beneficial effects of n-3 PUFA intake in utero on memory function in school-age children.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arctic Regions
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / drug effects
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / blood
  • Electroencephalography / drug effects
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry
  • Food Contamination
  • Humans
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Inuits
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Memory Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Pregnancy
  • Quebec
  • Recognition, Psychology / drug effects
  • Seafood
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / blood

Substances

  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids