Prenatal DHA supplementation and infant attention

Pediatr Res. 2016 Nov;80(5):656-662. doi: 10.1038/pr.2016.134. Epub 2016 Jun 30.


Background: Results of randomized trials on the effects of prenatal docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on infant cognition are mixed, but most trials have used global standardized outcomes, which may not be sensitive to effects of DHA on specific cognitive domains.

Methods: Women were randomized to 600 mg/d DHA or a placebo for the last two trimesters of pregnancy. Infants of these mothers were then followed on tests of visual habituation at 4, 6, and 9 mo of age.

Results: DHA supplementation did not affect look duration or habituation parameters but infants of supplemented mothers maintained high levels of sustained attention (SA) across the first year; SA declined for the placebo group. The supplemented group also showed significantly reduced attrition on habituation tasks, especially at 6 and 9 mo.

Conclusion: The findings support with the suggestion that prenatal DHA may positively affect infants' attention and regulation of state.

Trial registration: NCT00266825.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / drug effects*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Second
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Docosahexaenoic Acids

Associated data