The influence of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid, on child behavioral functioning: A review of randomized controlled trials of dha supplementation in pregnancy, the neonatal period and infancy

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This is a review of randomized controlled trials using docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) interventions in the first 1000 days of life with assessments of behavioral functioning in childhood. Electronic databases were searched for trials with a DHA intervention (compared with a placebo group that received no or less DHA) at any time to either women or infants during the first 1000 days, with a subsequent assessment of child behavior. There were 25 trials involving 10,320 mother–child pairs, and 71 assessments of behavior in 6867 of the children (66.5% of those originally enrolled). From the 71 assessments administered, there were 401 comparisons between a DHA group and a control group, with most reporting a null effect. There were no findings of a positive effect of DHA, and 23 instances where the DHA group had worse scores compared with the control group. There was limited evidence that DHA supplementation had any effect on behavioral development, although two of the largest trials with behavioral measures detected adverse effects. Future trials, and future follow-ups of existing trials, should make an effort to evaluate the effect of DHA intervention on behavioral functioning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number415
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Feb 2021


  • Behavior
  • Behavioral problems
  • DHA
  • Infant
  • Neonatal
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Postnatal
  • Prenatal
  • Supplementation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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