A randomized trial of visual attention of preterm infants fed docosahexaenoic acid until two months

Lipids. 1996 Jan;31(1):85-90. doi: 10.1007/BF02522416.


This was a randomized, double-blind trial to determine if a nutrient-enriched (preterm) formula supplemented with 0.2% docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) from a low eicosapentaenoic acid (0.06%) source of marine oil would enhance visual novelty preference and attention of preterm infants. Both the standard and experimental formulas contained 3% of total fatty acids as linolenic acid (18:3n-3) and were fed from approximately three days of age to two months past term. After two months, both diet groups were fed a commercially-available term formula with linolenic acid as the only source of n-3 fatty acid. At 12 mo visual recognition memory (novelty preference) and visual attention (number and duration of discrete looks) were determined with the Fagan Test of Infant Intelligence. The DHA-supplemented group compared with the control group had more and shorter duration looks in comparisons of familiar and novel stimuli, confirming earlier evidence that DHA can increase information processing speed of preterm infants who otherwise are receiving good intakes of linolenic acid. Because supplementation was stopped at two months and the effects seen at 12 mon, this study demonstrates for the first time that a relatively short period of DHA supplementation can produce significant effects on later visual attention.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / physiology
  • Male
  • Visual Perception*


  • Docosahexaenoic Acids