Premature infant girls developed more brain power with an omega-3 and vitamin D strengthened adolescent girls’ muscles in two new studies.
Doctors in an omega-3 study explained that the brain and nervous system contain very high levels of the omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), but that premature infants do not get enough time in the womb to build up DHA levels. Researchers wanted to see if the current estimated DHA requirements would be enough to help premature infants develop normally by 18 months of age.
About 650 mothers of infants born before 33 weeks—an average of seven weeks early—took 900 mg of DHA per day or a placebo if they breastfed their babies, while mothers who bottle-fed gave their babies a high-DHA formula or standard formula. While there was no effect for boys, premature girls who got DHA had less than half the mild mental delay of girls in the placebo group and severe mental delay was 80 percent less. Doctors believe that premature boys may need more DHA for their brains to develop and concluded that the U.S. should triple its requirement for DHA in premature babies to reach the level in the study.
Vitamin D deficiency, which can weaken muscles and bones, is increasing in the United Kingdom in infants, toddlers and adolescents, leading doctors to study its effects on muscle strength. Researchers measured vitamin D levels in about 100 girls, aged 12 to 14, who had had their first menstrual period, and saw that 75 percent had low vitamin D levels though none had physical symptoms. Doctors gave the girls jumping exercises and found—after adjusting for differences in weight—that girls with good vitamin D levels jumped faster and higher with more directional force and total power than girls with low vitamin D levels.
Journal of the American Medical Association; 2009, Vol. 301, No. 2, 175-82.