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J Nutr Biochem. 2018 Jul;57:287-293. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2018.03.019. Epub 2018 Apr 4.

Whole blood n-3 fatty acids are associated with executive function in 2-6-year-old Northern Ghanaian children.

Author information

1
Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.
2
Sanford School of Medicine, University of South Dakota and Omega Quant Analytics, LLC, Sioux Falls, SD.
3
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana.
4
Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.
5
Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. Electronic address: imigjeni@msu.edu.

Abstract

Several studies demonstrate the importance of essential fatty acids (EFAs), and the long chain polyunsaturated FA docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), on cognition and brain development. The objective of this study was to investigate the relationship between whole-blood FAs and executive function in children from Northern Ghana. A total of 307, 2-to-6-year-old children attempted the dimensional change card sort (DCCS) task to assess executive function, and dried blood spot samples were collected and analyzed for FA content. Significant differences in mean % total whole-blood fatty acids were observed between children who could not follow directions on the DCCS test (49.8% of the sample) and those who could (50.2% of the sample). Positive associations with DCCS performance were observed for DHA (β=0.25, P=.06), total n-3 (β=0.17, P=.06) and dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA; β=0.60, P=.06). Children with the highest levels of total n-3 and DHA were three and four times, respectively, more likely to pass at least one condition of the DCCS test of executive function than those with the lowest DHA levels. The results of this study indicate an association between n-3 FAs and high-level cognitive processes in children two to six years of age, providing impetus for further studies into possible interventions to improve EFA status of children in developing countries.

KEYWORDS:

Cognition; DCCS; Essential fatty acids; Executive function; Fatty acids; Ghana; Lipids

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