January 13, 2009

Fatty acid helps neurodevelopment in girls

Intake of certain fatty acid appears to improve neurodevelopment for preterm girls, but not boys, researchers in Australia said.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found the preterm infant girls who received a high amount of dietary docosahexaenoic acid -- an omega-3 fatty acid -- had higher measures of neurodevelopment than preterm girls who received a standard amount of DHA, but this effect was not seen among preterm boys.

Maria Makrides of Women's and Children's Hospital and Flinders Medical Centre in Adelaide, Australia, and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial to determine the effect of high-dose dietary DHA on neurological outcomes in preterm infants.

The study involved infants born at less than 33 weeks' gestation from five Australian hospitals. Of the 657 infants enrolled, 93.5 percent completed the 18-month follow-up.

The infants received DHA from either breast milk or infant formula. Lactating mothers allocated to the high-DHA group were asked to consume six 500-mg DHA-rich tuna oil capsules per day to achieve a high breast milk DHA concentration.

The researchers found that the average Bayley Mental Development Index score did not differ between the high-DHA and standard-DHA groups, but that the MDI score among girls fed the high-DHA diet was significantly higher than among girls fed the standard-DHA diet, while the MDI score among boys did not differ between groups.

The lack of responsiveness of boys to the intervention is puzzling, and the reasons are unclear, the study authors said in a statement.