The present review evaluates the effect of pre- and postnatal supplementation of nutrition with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) on neurodevelopmental outcome of term infants. The few studies which have been performed on the role of prenatal LCPUFA status or prenatal LCPUFA supplementation in neurodevelopmental outcome suggest that a better prenatal arachidonic acid (AA) and doxosahexaenoic acid (DHA) status might be related to a better neurodevelopmental outcome in early infancy. A review of the randomised controlled trials on postnatal formula supplementation with LCPUFA in term infants revealed that supplementation with LCPUFA, in particularly supplementation with ≥0.30% DHA, has a beneficial effect on neurodevelopmental outcome till 4 months of age. The studies could not demonstrate a consistent positive effect beyond that age. However, in the majority of studies neurodevelopmental outcome was assessed at 6 to 24 months, i.e. at an age where there is a latency in the expression of minor neurological dysfunction. This may mean that it is possible that LCPUFA may have a long lasting beneficial effect on neurodevelopmental outcome at school-age and beyond. This hypothesis urgently needs testing in nutritional intervention studies in which children are followed till at least school-age.
Keywords: arachidonic acid (AA), doxosahexaenoic acid (DHA), maternal intake, neurological dysfunction, visual evoked responses
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