By: Lewis First, MD, MS; Editor-in-Chief
Many of us can certainly remember when studies first heralded the importance of supplementing human milk and formula with docosahexanenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA), two long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) especially in very low birth weight (VLBW) infants so as to improve their cognitive function. While studies indicated that there was evidence of improvement in such function in infancy and toddlerhood, you might wonder if the improvement continues into childhood. Well wonder no more.
Almaas et al. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-4094) share with us the long-term follow-up results of a randomized double-blinded, placebo controlled trial on a cohort of 129 VLBW infants whose human milk was supplemented with high doses of DHA and AA. The cohort was followed over the next 8 years and 98 children underwent a battery of cognitive tests as well as 81 had MRIs. Do you think the cognitive differences seen early in life persisted into childhood? If you did, you may be disappointed with the findings reported in that no significant differences were noted in terms of cognitive or neuroanatomic effects 8 years after the trial.
Does this surprise you? Do you need a better understanding of why the results of this study might show no differences when the intent was to demonstrate the benefits cognitively of receiving PUFAs when VLBW infants were being fed so that cognitive gains would persist as these babies got older? We asked nutritional experts Drs. Maria Makrides and Ronald Kleinman to share their thoughts on this study with an accompanying commentary (doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-0813) that is food for thought and well worth digesting. Read both the study and commentary and see what we mean.