Omega-3-docosahexaenoic acid is a dietary fatty acid contained in certain fishes and nuts. According to W. D. Lassek, University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA, and colleagues the levels of this fatty acid in mother’s milk may predict children’s intelligence test performance.
The researchers analysed the fatty acid profiles of breast milk from women living in 28 different countries and compared these profiles to the outcome of cognitive performance tests (International Student Assessment Tests) performed by the children. The analysis revealed that the levels of omega-3-docosahexaenoic acid contained in mother’s milk strongly predicted the highest performance in cognitive tests. On the contrary, the levels of linoleic acid, a dietary fatty acid abundant in corn and soybean oils, predicted lower test scores.
These results may be linked to the role played by fatty acids during neuronal development. Breastfeeding and the mothers’ diet may, thus, be two important factors influencing the development of the cognitive abilities in children.
- Linoleic and docosahexaenoic acids in human milk have opposite relationships with cognitive test performance in a sample of 28 countries,
W. D. Lassek, S. J. C. Gaulin,
Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes Essent. Fatty Acids 2014.