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10-year Cognition in Preterms After Random Assignment to Fatty Acid Supplementation in Infancy

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OBJECTIVE: To test the hypothesis that long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCPUFA) supplementation in infancy would improve cognition into later childhood (after 9 years) at both general and specific levels. METHODS: A comprehensive cognitive battery was completed by 107 formerly preterm infants (mean age: 128 months). As infants, they had been assigned randomly to receive LCPUFA-supplemented (N = 50) or control (N = 57) formula, between birth and 9 months; the docosahexaenoic acid level (DHA) in the supplemented formulas was 0.5%. In addition to randomized comparisons, we planned supplementary analyses to examine the effects of both gender and feeding group (those receiving some maternal breast milk versus those receiving none). RESULTS: There were no significant differences between randomized diet groups on any cognitive measure. There was significant interaction between gender and supplementation; girls only showed beneficial effects of LCPUFAs on literacy. Significant interaction also occurred between feeding group and supplementation; increases of 0.7 SD in verbal IQ, full-scale IQ, and memory scores were found for the LCPUFA group, but only for infants who received only formula and no maternal breast milk. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this post-9-year cognitive follow-up study in a randomized trial of LCPUFA-supplemented formula for preterm infants suggest no overall group effects but indicate that gender-specific and diet-specific effects may exist. The data provide some evidence that LCPUFAs are a key factor in the cognitive benefits of breast milk. Caution is advised in data interpretation because of the small groups used. Pediatrics 2011;128:e890-e898

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