Omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio and higher-order cognitive functions in 7- to 9-y-olds: a cross-sectional study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. July 3, 2013. Sheppard KW, Cheatham CL. Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, and the Nutrition Research Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kannapolis, NC.
Biochemical and behavioral evidence has suggested that the ratio of n-6 (omega-6) to n-3 (omega-3) could be an important predictor of executive function abilities in children.
We determined the relation between the ratio of n-6 to n-3 and cognitive function in children. We hypothesized that children with lower ratios of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids would perform better on tests of planning and working memory.
Seventy 7- to 9-y-old children completed three 24-h diet recalls and a subset of the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Assessment Battery. Parents provided information on their demographics and children’s diet histories.
Mean n-3 and mean n-6 intakes were related to the mean time spent on each action taken in the planning problem. The ratio of n-6 to n-3 significantly predicted performance on the working memory and planning problems. There was a significant interaction between the ratio and fatty acid intake; when children had high ratios, a higher intake of n-3 fatty acids predicted a better performance on the planning task than when children had lower n-3 intakes. When children had low ratios, a lower intake of n-3 and lower intake of n-6 predicted better performance than when intakes were higher.
The relation between cognitive abilities and the ratio of n-6 to n-3 may be mediated by an enzymatic affinity for n-3 fatty acids. The ratio of n-6 to n-3 should be considered an important factor in the study of fatty acids and cognitive development. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01823419.