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

Mary Adjepong, William Yakah, William Harris, Reginald A. Annan, Matthew B. Pontifex, Jenifer I. Fenton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-293
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nutritional Biochemistry
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Clinical Biochemistry

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