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Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Dec;96(6):1327-38. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.041004. Epub 2012 Oct 24.

Effects of iron and n-3 fatty acid supplementation, alone and in combination, on cognition in school children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled intervention in South Africa.

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  • 1Laboratory of Human Nutrition, Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Z├╝rich, Switzerland. jeannine.baumgartner@gmail.com

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Little is known about the combined effects of iron and n-3 (omega-3) fatty acid (FA) supplementation on cognitive performance. The provision of either DHA/EPA or iron alone in rats with combined iron and n-3 FA deficiency has been reported to exacerbate cognitive deficits associated with deficiency.

OBJECTIVE:

We investigated the effects of iron and DHA/EPA supplementation, alone and in combination, in children with poor iron and n-3 FA status.

DESIGN:

In a 2-by-2 factorial trial, children with iron deficiency (ID) (n = 321; aged 6-11 y) were allocated to receive 1) iron (50 mg) plus DHA/EPA (420/80 mg), 2) iron plus placebo, 3) placebo plus a mixture of DHA and EPA (DHA/EPA), or 4) placebo plus placebo as oral supplements (4/wk) for 8.5 mo. Cognition was assessed at baseline and endpoint by using the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test (HVLT) and subscales of the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children.

RESULTS:

Both iron and DHA/EPA significantly increased weight-for-age z scores. Iron increased the number of words recalled at HVLT recall 2 (intervention effect: 0.90; 95% CI: 0.18, 1.62), and in anemic children, iron increased scores in the Atlantis Delayed test (1.51; 95% CI: 0.03, 2.99) and HVLT recall 2 (2.02; 95% CI: 0.55, 3.49). DHA/EPA showed no benefit in any of the cognitive tests but decreased Atlantis test scores (-2.48; 95% CI: -3.99, -0.96) in children who were anemic at baseline and decreased Atlantis delayed scores (-0.9; 95% CI: -1.45, -0.36) in girls with ID, whereas boys tended to perform better.

CONCLUSIONS:

In children with poor iron and n-3 FA status, iron supplementation improved verbal and nonverbal learning and memory, particularly in children with anemia. In contrast, DHA/EPA supplementation had no benefits on cognition and impaired working memory in anemic children and long-term memory and retrieval in girls with ID.

PMID:
23097272
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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