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Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels in Maternal Breast Milk Predict Attention in Infancy

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Abstract:

Background and Aims: The relationship between omega-3 fatty acid levels in human breast milk and the developing infantsÂ’ attention abilities was examined. This study takes advantage of natural variations in the components of breast milk to see how these components affect early cognitive development. The omega 3 fatty acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are thought to stimulate brain and visual development in infants and may provide support for cognitive development.
The infants were presented with a fixed-trial habituation procedure and looking time was measured. Habituation is a reduction in response strength to repetitive stimuli, and it involves attention and memory. In infancy, it is considered a predictor of later cognitive functioning. Specifically, faster habituation is associated with higher intellectual functioning, at least during the first year of life.

Methods: A total of 48 mother-infant dyads participated, the infant was 3-months-old for 33 of the dyads, and 6-weeks-old for 15 of the dyads.
The infant sat in an infant seat while a 2.5 minute video of an arm-flapping toy turtle was played. The infants face was videotaped, and we scored how long the infant looked at the video.
A small sample of breast milk was collected on the same day as the infant participated, and fatty acid concentrations were determined by gas chromatography. The mother also answered questionnaires and completed the vocabulary and matrix reasoning subtests of the WASI.

Key Results: Among the 3-month-old infants, higher maternal DHA levels were associated with shorter looking times (r = -.64). This relationship held even when we controlled for maternal intelligence and family SES. In contrast, there was no relationship between maternal DHA levels and looking time among the 6-week-old infants (r = .00). Finally, the 6-week-old infants looked at the video for a shorter duration than the 3-month-old infants (M = 88 and 125 s, respectively), t(45) = 2.86, p < .01.

Conclusions: There was a relationship between DHA levels in breast milk and habituation in infancy. Specifically, 3-month-old infants whose mothers had higher levels of DHA in breast milk habituated faster to a repetitive stimulus. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that DHA is good for the developing infant.
The 6-week-old infants did not show a relationship between looking time and maternal breast milk DHA levels. During testing, we observed that the 6-week-olds were not very alert during the video, and this state may have affected the results.

Author's Keywords:

Nutrition, Mother-Child interaction,
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Association:
Name: XVth Biennial International Conference on Infant Studies
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http://www.isisweb.org


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p94048_index.html
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MLA Citation:

McCarty, Michael., Dong, Linxia., Boylan, Mallory., Cheng, Quiqiong., Anderson, Todd. and Hart, Sybil. "Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels in Maternal Breast Milk Predict Attention in Infancy" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the XVth Biennial International Conference on Infant Studies, Westin Miyako, Kyoto, Japan, Jun 19, 2006 <Not Available>. 2013-12-17 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p94048_index.html>

APA Citation:

McCarty, M. , Dong, L. , Boylan, M. , Cheng, Q. , Anderson, T. and Hart, S. , 2006-06-19 "Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels in Maternal Breast Milk Predict Attention in Infancy" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the XVth Biennial International Conference on Infant Studies, Westin Miyako, Kyoto, Japan <Not Available>. 2013-12-17 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p94048_index.html

Publication Type: Individual Poster
Abstract: Background and Aims: The relationship between omega-3 fatty acid levels in human breast milk and the developing infantsÂ’ attention abilities was examined. This study takes advantage of natural variations in the components of breast milk to see how these components affect early cognitive development. The omega 3 fatty acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are thought to stimulate brain and visual development in infants and may provide support for cognitive development.
The infants were presented with a fixed-trial habituation procedure and looking time was measured. Habituation is a reduction in response strength to repetitive stimuli, and it involves attention and memory. In infancy, it is considered a predictor of later cognitive functioning. Specifically, faster habituation is associated with higher intellectual functioning, at least during the first year of life.

Methods: A total of 48 mother-infant dyads participated, the infant was 3-months-old for 33 of the dyads, and 6-weeks-old for 15 of the dyads.
The infant sat in an infant seat while a 2.5 minute video of an arm-flapping toy turtle was played. The infants face was videotaped, and we scored how long the infant looked at the video.
A small sample of breast milk was collected on the same day as the infant participated, and fatty acid concentrations were determined by gas chromatography. The mother also answered questionnaires and completed the vocabulary and matrix reasoning subtests of the WASI.

Key Results: Among the 3-month-old infants, higher maternal DHA levels were associated with shorter looking times (r = -.64). This relationship held even when we controlled for maternal intelligence and family SES. In contrast, there was no relationship between maternal DHA levels and looking time among the 6-week-old infants (r = .00). Finally, the 6-week-old infants looked at the video for a shorter duration than the 3-month-old infants (M = 88 and 125 s, respectively), t(45) = 2.86, p < .01.

Conclusions: There was a relationship between DHA levels in breast milk and habituation in infancy. Specifically, 3-month-old infants whose mothers had higher levels of DHA in breast milk habituated faster to a repetitive stimulus. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that DHA is good for the developing infant.
The 6-week-old infants did not show a relationship between looking time and maternal breast milk DHA levels. During testing, we observed that the 6-week-olds were not very alert during the video, and this state may have affected the results.

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