Within the visual system, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) is an important structural component for retinal photoreceptors and cortical gray matter. There is a marked decrease in neural DHA accumulation in the face of DHA deficiency. DHA is accumulated at an accelerated rate during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester.

However, pregnant women in the US and Canada have dietary DHA intakes that are significantly below the optimal level.

The main objective of this study was to determine whether a DHA-functional food during pregnancy would benefit infant visual acuity at four and six months of age measured behaviorally using the acuity card procedure (ACP).

In a randomized, longitudinal, double-blinded, and placebo-controlled trial, 30 pregnant women received either the DHA-functional food (n = 16) or the placebo (n = 14). There were significant main effects for visual acuity at four months of age (P = 0.018). The mean acuity scores were 3.8 +/- 1.1 cycles/degree in the DHA group versus 3.2 +/- 0.7 cycles/degree in the placebo group. At six months there were no group differences.

Based on our results, we conclude that DHA supplemented during pregnancy plays a role in the maturation of the visual system.