Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) are abundant in the brain and are necessary for growth and maturation of a young infant’s brain and the retina of the eye. These particular fatty acids include docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and are said to be ‘essential’ because the human body is not efficient in producing them. This means that infants who are breastfeeding obtain the fatty acids from their mothers’ diet, mainly from fish oil and ocean fish.
This review of six randomised clinical trials showed that supplementing a mother’s diet with LCPUFA during the pregnancy and the first four months after birth did not improve the child’s neurodevelopment in terms of problem solving ability or intelligence, psychomotor or motor development. In language development at 12 to 24 months and at five years in child attention, weak evidence was found (one study) favouring the supplementation. The age of the children at the last neurodevelopment assessment was seven years. A total of 1280 women from high-income countries were included in the six included trials but our individual analyses were based on fewer numbers of trials and women. The children’s visual acuity was not clearly different at 12 months of age compared with children of the control groups of mothers who received supplements of olive, soybean or corn oils. More evidence is needed. —Cochrane Review