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Effects of high-dose fish oil supplementation during early infancy on neurodevelopment and language: a randomised controlled trial

  • Suzanne J. Meldrum (a1) (a2), Nina D'Vaz (a1), Karen Simmer (a1) (a2), Janet A. Dunstan (a1), Kathryn Hird (a1) (a3) and Susan L. Prescott (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 21 February 2012

n-3 Long-chain PUFA (LC-PUFA) intake during infancy is important for neurodevelopment; however, previous studies of n-3 LC-PUFA supplementation have been inconclusive possibly due to an insufficient dose and limited methods of assessment. The present study aimed to evaluate the effects of direct supplementation with high-dose fish oil (FO) on infant neurodevelopmental outcomes and language. In the present randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 420 healthy term infants were assigned to receive a DHA-enriched FO supplement (containing at least 250 mg DHA/d and 60 mg EPA/d) or a placebo (olive oil) from birth to 6 months. Assessment occurred at 18 months via the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development (3rd edition; BSID-III) and the Child Behavior Checklist. Language assessment occurred at 12 and 18 months via the Macarthur–Bates Communicative Development Inventory. The FO group had significantly higher erythrocyte DHA (P = 0·03) and plasma phospholipid DHA (P = 0·01) levels at 6 months of age relative to placebo. In a small subset analysis (about 40 % of the total population), children in the FO group had significantly higher percentile ranks of both later developing gestures at 12 and 18 months (P = 0·007; P = 0·002, respectively) and the total number of gestures (P = 0·023; P = 0·006, respectively). There was no significant difference between the groups in the standard or composite scores of the BSID-III. The results suggest that improved postnatal n-3 LC-PUFA intake in the first 6 months of life using high-dose infant FO supplementation was not beneficial to global infant neurodevelopment. However, some indication of benefits to early communicative development was observed.

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*Corresponding author: Dr S. J. Meldrum, fax +61 9388 2097, email
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