Higher maternal DHA levels improve attentional development in infants

July 19, 2004
In this issue

Life Extension Update Exclusive:

Higher maternal DHA levels improve attentional development in infants


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Featured Products:


Children’s Formula Life Extension Mix

Life Extension Update Exclusive

Higher maternal DHA levels improve attentional development in infants
A study published in the July/August 2004 issue of the journal Child Development revealed that infants whose mothers had higher blood levels of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) at the time of delivery showed better development of attention over the first two years of their lives. DHA, found in fish oils and eggs, is involved in the development of the eyes and brain, and has been found to benefit children with attention deficit disorder. DHA naturally occurs in breast milk, and recently some infant formulas have been supplemented with this important fatty acid.

The subjects were part of a trial which evaluated DHA supplementation’s effect on pregnancy outcomes. Three hundred fifty mothers received diets that contained high or average levels of DHA during the last trimester of their pregnancies and their levels of DHA were measured upon the birth of their infants. In the current study, conducted by University of Kansas researchers John Colombo of the Department of Psychology, Susan Carlson of the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition, Kathleen Kannass of the Life Span Institute, and colleagues, seventy of the infants were followed for a two year period, and tests of attention were administered during the first and second years.

The team found that children whose mothers’ DHA levels were higher demonstrated more mature forms of attention than those whose mothers had low levels of the fatty acid. Infants whose mothers had high DHA levels showed less distraction when playing and spent more time with toys.

Dr Carlson commented, "Although there is individual variability within a culture, we know from worldwide studies of breast milk that women who live in countries whose diets are rich in fish and other marine sources such as Norway have much higher DHA levels in milk and probably have more DHA to transfer to the fetus than American women."

The authors conclude that the findings are consistent with previous research that has linked DHA and infant cognitive development. They suggest that future research attempt to elevate maternal DHA by supplementation during pregnancy.


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
If you or your child has just been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), don't despair. While in the past, a frightening regimen of powerful pharmaceuticals was used for this disorder, newer findings in nutrition and wellness are providing less invasive options for treating and preventing ADHD. ADHD is a condition marked by an inability to pay attention, concentrate, or complete tasks, sometimes accompanied by hyperactivity that occurs in both adults and children. Previously it was called simply attention deficit disorder (ADD), but clinicians now refer to this disorder as ADHD and differentiate three types: inattentive, hyperactive-compulsive, and combined.

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are the most important nutrients to consider in the battle against ADHD. For example, one study found that a deficiency of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids is linked to ADHD (Richardson et al. 2000a; 2000b). Another study found that deficiencies in highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFAs) cause the symptoms of ADHD. After 12 weeks of supplementation with HUFAs, researchers found major improvements in ADHD-related symptoms in children with specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia (Richardson et al. 2002).

Some ADHD diagnoses might be EFA deficiencies in disguise. One study found that ADHD patients reporting symptoms indicative of EFA deficiency had significantly lower levels of plasma arachidonic acid (AA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) than did ADHD patients without these symptoms or controls. In this study patients with low omega-3 fatty acid levels had more temper tantrums and learning, health, and sleep problems than those with high levels of these fatty acids (Burgess et al. 2000). DHA supplementation has proven helpful in people with ADHD (Voigt et al. 2001). DHA can be found in deep-sea, cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, and tuna; sea vegetables (which is where fish obtain DHA); and microalgae. Supplements are derived from these sources. Linoleic and linolenic acids found in products such as flax and hempseed oil are precursors of DHA and AA, but their manufacture in the body can be blocked by saturated and trans fats.

Vitamins may help prevent and treat ADHD by protecting the nervous system from free radical attack and supporting the body in making neurotransmitters. Sociologists Schoenthaler et al. (2000) found that multivitamin supplementation of school-age children (ages 6-12) with behavioral problems such as ADHD helps control antisocial behaviors.

Featured Products


Fatty acids are essential for life. Besides storing energy, these fats are part of our makeup; they live in our healthy cells, muscles, nerves, and organs. Conversely, there are bad fats that must be controlled or avoided to maintain good health.

Supplementation with the right proportions of fatty acids can maximize the production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins (E1 and E3), while suppressing proinflammatory prostaglandin E2 and leukotriene B4. In addition to avoiding saturated fats and high glycemic foods that contribute to chronic inflammation, eating omega-3 foods, and consuming supplements that provide GLA, DHA, and EPA can help control inflammation by bringing balance to the essential fatty acids.

Children’s Formula Life Extension Mix

The effect of more than RDA (depending on age) amounts of vitamins and nutrients for children are largely unknown. Children's Formula Life Extension Mix contains the amounts of the ingredients from Life Extension Mix which are suitable for children 1 1/2 years and older.

Questions? Comments? Send them to or call 954 766 8433 extension 7716.

For longer life,

Dayna Dye
Editor, Life Extension Update
1100 West Commercial Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale FL 33309
954 766 8433 extension 7716

Sign up for Life Extension Update at

Help spread the good news about living longer and healthier. Forward this email to a friend!

View previous issues of Life Extension Update in the Newsletter Archive.