Food and Behaviour Research

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Maternal fish oil supplementation in lactation: effect on visual acuity and n-3 fatty acid content of infant erythrocytes.

Lauritzen L, Jorgensen MH, Mikkelsen TB, Skovgaard M, Straarup EM, Olsen SF, Hoy CE, Michaelsen KF. (2004) Lipids 39(3) 195-206. 

Web URL: View this abstract via PubMed here


Studies on formula-fed infants indicate a beneficial effect of dietary DHA on visual acuity. Cross-sectional studies have shown an association between breast-milk DHA levels and visual acuity in breast-fed infants.

The objective in this study was to evaluate the biochemical and functional effects of fish oil (FO) supplements in lactating mothers.

In this double-blinded randomized trial, Danish mothers with habitual fish intake below the 50th percentile of the Danish National Birth Cohort were randomized to microencapsulated FO [1.3 g/d long-chain n-3 FA (n-3 LCPUFA)] or olive oil (OO). The intervention started within a week after delivery and lasted 4 mon. Mothers with habitual high fish intake and their infants were included as a reference group. Ninety-seven infants completed the trial (44 OO-group, 53 FO-group) and 47 reference infants were followed up.

The primary outcome measures were: DHA content of milk samples (0, 2, and 4 mon postnatal) and of infant red blood cell (RBC) membranes (4 mon postnatal), and infant visual acuity (measured by swept visual evoked potential at 2 and 4 mon of age).

FO supplementation gave rise to a threefold increase in the DHA content of the 4-mon milk samples (P < 0.001). DHA in infant RBC reflected milk contents (r = 0.564, P < 0.001) and was increased by almost 50% (P < 0.001). Infant visual acuity was not significantly different in the randomized groups but was positively associated at 4 mon with infant RBC-DHA (P = 0.004, multiple regression).

We concluded that maternal FO supplementation during lactation did not enhance visual acuity of the infants who completed the intervention. However, the results showed that infants with higher RBC levels of n-3 LCPUFA had a better visual acuity at 4 mon of age, suggesting that n-3 LCPUFA may influence visual maturation.