Diet-induced changes in iron and n-3 fatty acid status and associations with cognitive performance in 8-11-year-old Danish children: secondary analyses of the Optimal Well-Being, Development and Health for Danish Children through a Healthy New Nordic Diet School Meal Study

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Fe and n-3 long-chain PUFA (n-3 LCPUFA) have both been associated with cognition, but evidence remains inconclusive in well-nourished school-aged children. In the Optimal Well-Being, Development and Health for Danish Children through a Healthy New Nordic Diet (OPUS) School Meal Study, the 3-month intervention increased reading performance, inattention, impulsivity and dietary intake of fish and Fe. This study investigated whether the intervention influenced n-3 LCPUFA and Fe status and, if so, explored how these changes correlated with the changes in cognitive performance. The study was a cluster-randomised cross-over trial comparing school meals with packed lunch (control). At baseline and after each treatment, we measured serum ferritin, whole-blood n-3 LCPUFA and Hb, and performance in reading, mathematics and d2-test of attention. Data were analysed using mixed models (n 726) and principal component analysis of test performances (n 644), which showed two main patterns: 'school performance' and 'reading comprehension'. The latter indicated that children with good reading comprehension were also more inattentive and impulsive (i.e. higher d2-test error%). The intervention improved 'school performance' (P=0·015), 'reading comprehension' (P=0·043) and EPA+DHA status 0·21 (95 % CI 0·15, 0·27) w/w % (P<0·001), but it did not affect serum ferritin or Hb. At baseline, having small Fe stores was associated with poorer 'school performance' in girls, but with better 'reading comprehension' in both boys and girls. Both baseline EPA+DHA status and the intervention-induced increase in EPA+DHA status was positively associated with 'school performance', suggesting that n-3 LCPUFA could potentially explain approximately 20 % of the intervention effect. These exploratory associations indicate that increased fish intake might explain some of the increase in reading performance and inattention in the study.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1623-1637
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2015

ID: 144414013