Do infants of breast-feeding mothers benefit from additional long-chain PUFA from fish oil? A 6-year follow-up
British Journal of Nutrition
Cambridge University Press
School of Medical and Health Sciences
National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia University of Western Australia
© The Authors 2020. Fish-oil supplements are marketed as enhancing intelligence and cognitive performance. However, empirical data concerning the utility of these products in healthy term infants are mixed, particularly with respect to lasting effects into childhood. We evaluated whether fish-oil supplementation during infancy leads to better neurocognitive/behavioural development at 6 years. We conducted a double-blind randomised controlled trial of supplementation with n-3 long-chain PUFA in 420 healthy term infants. Infants received either fish oil (containing at least 250 mg DHA and at least 60 mg EPA) or placebo (olive oil) daily from birth to 6 months of age. Neurodevelopmental follow-up was conducted at a mean age of 6 years (sd 7 months), whereby 335 children were assessed for language, executive functioning, global intelligence quotient and behaviour. No significant differences were observed between the groups for the main neurocognitive outcomes. However in parent-report questionnaire, fish-oil supplementation was associated with negative externalising (P = 0·035, d = 0·24) and oppositional/defiant behaviour (P = 0·006, d = 0·31), particularly in boys (P = 0·01, d = 0·45; P = 0·004, d = 0·40). Our results provide evidence that fish-oil supplementation to predominantly breast-fed infants confers no significant cognitive or behavioural benefit to children at 6 years.