British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Omega 3 fatty acids on child growth, visual acuity and neurodevelopment

Cristina Campoya1 c1, Mª Victoria Escolano-Margarita1, Tania Anjosa1, Hania Szajewskaa2 and Ricardo Uauya3

a1 Department of Paediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Granada Avda. de Madrid, 11-18012 Granada, Spain

a2 Department of Paediatrics, The Medical University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland

a3 Department of Public Health Nutrition, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London, Kepple St, London WC1E 7HT, UK


The aim of this review is to evaluate the effects of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 LCPUFA) supplementation in pregnant and lactating women and infants during postnatal life, on the visual acuity, psychomotor development, mental performance and growth of infants and children. Eighteen publications (11 sets of randomized control clinical trial [RCTs]) assessed the effects of the n-3 LCPUFA supplementation during pregnancy on neurodevelopment and growth, in the same subjects at different time points; 4 publications (2 data sets from RCTs) addressed physiological responses to n-3 LCPUFA supplementation during pregnancy & lactation and 5 publications (3 data sets from RCTs) exclusively during lactation. Some of these studies showed beneficial effects of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation during pregnancy and/or lactation especially on visual acuity outcomes and some on long-term neurodevelopment; a few, showed positive effects on growth. There were also 15 RCTs involving term infants who received infant formula supplemented with DHA, which met our selection criteria. Many of these studies claimed a beneficial effect of such supplementation on visual, neural, or developmental outcomes and no effects on growth. Although new well designed and conducted studies are being published, evidence from RCTs does not demonstrate still a clear and consistent benefit of n-3 LCPUFA supplementation during pregnancy and/or lactation on term infants growth, neurodevelopment and visual acuity. These results should be interpreted with caution due to methodological limitations of the included studies.


c1 Corresponding author: Cristina Campoy, fax +34 958240740, email