EFAs give boost to kids’ brains

Attention all moms-to-be: Did you know that supplementing with essential fatty acids (EFAs) during the last trimester of pregnancy can increase your child’s IQ?

At the Institute for Nutrition Research at the University of Oslo in Norway, a study with 262 pregnant women found that supplementing with cod liver oil during the last trimester could increase a baby’s IQ. EFAs such as AA (arachidonic acid) and DHA (docosa-hexaenoic acid) play an important role in the development of the central nervous system.

Since there is a growth spurt during the last trimester of pregnancy, study participants were given either 10 ml of cod liver oil or corn oil from week 18 until three-months after delivery. The babies underwent assessments at both six and nine months and were given IQ tests at four years old. The cod liver oil babies scored higher on their IQ tests. After detailed analysis of the mothers’ lifestyles, the only significant variable was the EFA, leading researchers to conclude that fatty acids had helped brain development.

Researchers at the Meyer Center for Developmental Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, Texas, found that EFAs during early infancy were essential for brain development. In this study, 44 infants were given formulas with varying ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) content to see if ALA benefited neurodevelopment. At four months the babies underwent developmental tests and the researchers found that babies taking the formula with the lowest content of ALA scored lowest on neurodevelopment tests, while the babies taking infant formula with the highest content of ALA scored highest.

Sources: Pediatrics 2003 Jan; 111(1);e39-44; J Hum Nutr Diet 2002 Apr;15(2):111-20