Alpha-linolenic acid supplementation during human pregnancy does not effect cognitive functioning.

January 1, 2004 Human Health and Nutrition Data 0 Comments

Alpha-linolenic acid supplementation during human pregnancy does not effect cognitive functioning.

Year: 2004
Authors: R H M De Groot, J Adam, J Jolles, G Hornstra.
Publication Name: Prost. Leuk. Essen. Fatty Acids.
Publication Details: Volume 70; 41-47.


Research has shown that long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCPUFA) status, primarily DHA, decreases during pregnancy, as does cognitive functioning. No studies to date have investigated the effect of ALA, the ultimate dietary precursor of DHA, on cognitive function during pregnancy. Thus, the purpose of the present study was to investigate the effects of ALA supplementation on maternal and neonatal LCPUFA status and cognition. Fifty-six pregnant women participated in a double blind intervention trial from week 14 of pregnancy through 32 weeks after delivery. Subjects were randomly allocated to either a control group (n=26) or experimental group (n=30). Both groups consumed at least 25g daily of a special margarine from week 14 of gestation until the end of pregnancy. Both the control and experimental margarines consisted of 79.5% fat, 20% water, 0.04% vitamins, 0.04% flavor, 0.03% lecithin, and 0.12% BHT. In addition, margarine for the experimental group was enriched with ALA (14.2%) + LA (45.4%), while the margarine of the control group was enriched primarily with LA (55.02%) + negligible amounts of ALA (0.17%). Blood for plasma fatty acid analyses was sampled at weeks 14, 26, and 36 of gestation, at partus, and at 32 weeks after delivery. Cognitive tests were administered in five parallel versions at weeks 14, 17, 29, and 36 of pregnancy, and 32 weeks postpartum, and included: visual verbal word learning task (WLT), concept shifting test (CST), Stroop Color-word Interference Test, letter-digit substitution test (LDST), and finger precuing task. The average margarine consumption per day in the control group and experimental group were equivalent at 27.0 +/- 2.9g and 27.7 +/- 3.4g, respectively. Daily intakes of ALA and LA in the control group were 0.03 and 11.8g, respectively, whereas daily consumption of ALA and LA in the experimental group was 3.12g and 9.99g, respectively. ALA concentrations in plasma lipids were significantly higher in the experimental group in comparison to the control group during pregnancy; however, there was no significant difference in arachidonic acid (the LCPUFA synthesized from LA) and DHA levels between the two groups. No significant dietary group vs. time effects were found, indicating that plasma fatty acids did not change over time with diet. At 32 wk after delivery, there were no significant differences in plasma fatty acid levels, with the exception of ALA, which was still significantly higher in the treatment group. In addition, no statistically significant differences were found between the experimental and control group in terms of cognitive performance. Basis the results of this study, the researchers concluded that ALA supplementation during pregnancy has no effect on cognitive functioning. However, it should be noted that the background diet for both treatments contained a substantial amount of LA which may have impacted the conversion of ALA to DHA both pre- and post-pregnancy.

Back to Databases

Affiliated Organizations

Flax Focus Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with important flax news and announcements with our FLAX FOCUS newsletter.