Bread Spread Enriched with DHA/EPA Found to Improve Learning and Memory in School Children
Dalton et al., Prostagl., Leuk., and EFAs. 80: 143-149, 2009.
Nutritional Intervention Research Unit, Medical Research Council, Tygerburg, South Africa
This clinical trial was initiated to investigate the potential effect of an experimental fish-flour bread spread enriched in omega-3 fatty acids as DHA/EPA on the cognitive performance of children ages 7-9 years. The omega-3 bread spread provided an average daily intake of 127mg of DHA + 55mg of EPA (DHA/EPA combined of 182mg/day) over a six month period. The control group had less than 20% of this intake of DHA/EPA. the current study suggested that the learning ability and memory of children aged 7-9 years improved after supplementing with a fish-flour bread spread containing long-chain omega-3 fatty acids as DHA/EPA embedded in a natural food matrix. The study showed a significant intervention effect based on measurements using the HVLT (Hopkins Verbal Learning Test) Recognition (increased by 9%) and Discrimination Index (increased by 20%) as well as for the Spelling Test in these children. In their conclusions, the authors speculate that the ‘cumulative benefits from prolonged ingestion of DHA may eventually, over time, have a positive effect on the school performance and general health of children’.
The present study is one of relatively few that have evaluated and observed an apparent beneficial fact on cognition in school-age children by increasing their intakes of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids as DHA (predominantly) + EPA. It is noteworthy that the intakes of DHA/EPA in the group supplemented with the fish-flour bread spread provided an average daily intake of 127mg DHA + 55mg EPA which are both considerably greater than current intakes of these fatty acids amongst children in North America aged 4 –years. A recently-published study from our lab (Madden et al, J. Nutr., 139:528-532 (2009)) directly assessed the intake of various fatty acids including omega-3 fatty acids in Canadian children. This study indicated that the daily average intake of DHA was 54mg while that for EPA was 38mg (summed average intake of DHA+EPA = 92.5mg/day) with a high degree of variability between individual children. In this latter study, only 22% of the children met the ‘suggested’ intake of DHA+EPA for North America based on the DRI recommendations from the Nation Academy of Sciences (Washington DC) which suggested that an adequate intake may be 90mg/day (DHA/EPA combined) or 10% of the DRI of 900mg /day for alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). The DHA/EPA summed intake in the present study via the fish-flour bread spread was approximately double that of current average intakes for 4-8 year old children in North America.