The need for DHA in the development of the human brain is widely appreciated. But data showing long term relationships between mother’s milk DHA levels (which reflects what the baby is eating), and long-term mental function of kids are rare. Now a new study from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and University of California – Santa Barbara took an interesting approach to this question. They compared average DHA levels in milk from 28 countries around the world with average standardized test scores in math, reading, and science. At least 4500 students, about 15 years of age, were included for each country’s average test data. Remarkably, they found that there was a statistically significant association between all test scores and milk DHA – more DHA, higher test scores. This, of course, does not prove that a higher DHA intake in infancy makes kids smarter, but it’s consistent with that view. So knowing what your milk DHA levels are, and then raising them into the target zone if they are too low by increased fish consumption and/or fish oil supplements, might be a good idea.
“Linoleic and docosahexaenoic acids in human milk have opposite relationships with cognitive test performance in a sample of 28 countries” by W.D. Lassek and S.J.C. Gaulin. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, in press, 2014.