A double-blind, randomized, controlled, parallel-group prospective trial was conducted to determine whether a dose-response existed for four different levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation on the cognitive performance of infants.

A total of 122 term infants were fed one of four different formulas varying in their DHA composition (0.00, 0.32, 0.64, and 0.96% of total fatty acids as DHA) from birth to 12 mo. The three DHA-supplemented formulas also contained 0.64% of total fatty acids as arachidonic acid (ARA, 20:4n-6). Infants were tested at 4, 6, and 9 mo of age on a visual habituation protocol that yielded both behavioral and psychophysiological indices of attention.

Infants in all DHA+ARA-supplemented conditions had lower heart rates than those in the unsupplemented condition; there was no dose-response for this effect. The distribution of time that infants spent in different phases of attention (a cognitive index derived from the convergence of behavioral and cardiac responses) varied as a function of dosage.

Infants supplemented at the two lower DHA doses spent proportionately more time engaged in active stimulus processing than infants fed the unsupplemented formula, whereas infants fed the highest dose were intermediate and did not differ from any other group.

PMID: 21705959

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