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Harvard scholars have found that Omega-3 may increase brain volumes in infants

Scholars at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital have suggested that maternal dietary intake of Omega-3 fatty acids correlates positively with regional brain volumes in 1-month-old term infants.

Cerebral Cortex, Volume 30, Issue 4, April 2020, Pages 2057–2069,
Published:11 November 2019

Sarah U Morton, Rutvi Vyas, Borjan Gagoski, Catherine Vu, Jonathan Litt, Ryan J Larsen, Matthew J Kuchan, John B Lasekan, Brad P Sutton, P Ellen Grant, Yangming Ou



Maternal nutrition is an important factor for infant neurodevelopment. However, prior magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies on maternal nutrients and infant brain have focused mostly on preterm infants or on few specific nutrients and few specific brain regions. We present a first study in term-born infants, comprehensively correlating 73 maternal nutrients with infant brain morphometry at the regional (61 regions) and voxel (over 300 000 voxel) levels. Both maternal nutrition intake diaries and infant MRI were collected at 1 month of life (0.9 ± 0.5 months) for 92 term-born infants (among them, 54 infants were purely breastfed and 19 were breastfed most of the time). Intake of nutrients was assessed via standardized food frequency questionnaire. No nutrient was significantly correlated with any of the volumes of the 61 autosegmented brain regions. However, increased volumes within subregions of the frontal cortex and corpus callosum at the voxel level were positively correlated with maternal intake of omega-3 fatty acids, retinol (vitamin A) and vitamin B12, both with and without correction for postmenstrual age and sex (P < 0.05, q < 0.05 after false discovery rate correction). Omega-3 fatty acids remained significantly correlated with infant brain volumes after subsetting to the 54 infants who were exclusively breastfed, but retinol and vitamin B12 did not. This provides an impetus for future larger studies to better characterize the effect size of dietary variation and correlation with neurodevelopmental outcomes, which can lead to improved nutritional guidance during pregnancy and lactation.

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