LCPUFA Supplementation in Infancy Reduces Heart Rate and Positively Affects Distribution of Attention—Birth to 12 Months


This study is the first randomized clinical trial of postnatal omega-3 DHA supplementation to measure attention.

DHA and ARA, two nutritional compounds markedly deficient in the American [Western] diet, are derived from:

  • Mothers before birth
  • Breast-feeding, up to age two
  • Some infant formulas


DHA and ARA, positively affect:

  • Brain development, infancy into childhood
  • Eye development
  • Nervous system development
  • Immune support


The study found infants fed formula containing omega-3 DHA at 0.32% and 0.64% of fatty acids spent a greater percentage of time actively focusing on visual stimuli than infants fed formula with no DHA. The formula with even the lowest level of LCPUFA—0.3% level—was found to be sufficient to produce these benefits.


Infants who were fed LCPUFA-fortified formula vs. those infants who were fed formula without LCPUFA:

  • Were more cognitively advanced
  • Spent a greater percentage of time actively focusing on visual stimuli
  • Had lower heart rates


Earlier work and collaborations by Colombo, et al. influenced infant formula manufacturers to begin adding DHA in 2001.


Finding: For infants who are not breast-fed, DHA-fortified infant formula is a safe and effective method of infant feeding.


Colombo J, et al. Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in infancy reduces heart rate and positively affects distribution of attention.
Pediatr Res 2011 Oct;70(4):406–10.
Follow-up study: Colombo, et al. Long-term effects of LCPUFA supplementation on childhood cognitive outcomes. Am J Clin Nutr 2013 Aug;98(2):403–12.