Role of Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Early Human Neurodevelopment

Tamás Decsi, Berthold Koletzko

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

28 Citations (Scopus)


While breast-fed infants receive considerable amounts of preformed dietary arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids in human milk, most of the currently available infant formulae are devoid of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Observational data obtained in preterm as well as in full-term infants indicate that breast feeding as compared to feeding formula is associated with better results in various tests on visual and cognitive development. In several randomised, placebo controlled, double-blind studies carried out in preterm infants, feeding formula with as compared to without long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids resulted in improved maturation of visual functions. However, beneficial effects of providing dietary long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids were seen only in some but not in all randomised studies on the development of visual functions in full-term infants. Data obtained in two recent randomised clinical trials on cognitive functions in full-term infants indicate that supplementation of formula with arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids offers some neurodevelopmental benefits detectable at the ages of 4 and 10 months. Confirmation of short-term results in longer follow-up studies appears desirable, but available evidence support the supplementation of both preterm and term infant formulae with arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids in amounts and ratios characteristic to those found in mature human milk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-306
Number of pages14
JournalNutritional Neuroscience
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2000


  • Arachidonic acid
  • Brain development
  • Docosahexaenoic acid
  • Infant nutrition
  • Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid
  • Visual development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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