Children born preterm experience socioemotional difficulties, including increased risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In this secondary analysis, we tested the effect of combined docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA) supplementation during toddlerhood on caregiver-reported socioemotional outcomes of children born preterm. We hypothesized that children randomly assigned to DHA + AA would display better socioemotional outcomes compared with those randomly assigned to a placebo.METHODS:
Omega Tots was a single-site randomized, fully masked, parallel-group, placebo-controlled trial. Children (N = 377) were 10 to 16 months at enrollment, born at <35 weeks’ gestation, and assigned to 180 days of daily 200-mg DHA + 200-mg AA supplementation or a placebo (400 mg corn oil). Caregivers completed the Brief Infant-Toddler Social and Emotional Assessment and the Pervasive Developmental Disorders Screening Test–II, Stage 2 at the end of the trial. Liner mixed models and log-binomial regression compared socioemotional outcomes between the DHA + AA and placebo groups.RESULTS:
Outcome data were available for 83% of children (ntreatment = 161; nplacebo = 153). Differences between DHA + AA and placebo groups on Brief Infant-Toddler Social and Emotional Assessment scores were of small magnitude (Cohen’s d ≤ 0.15) and not statistically significant. Children randomly assigned to DHA + AA had a decreased risk of scoring at-risk for ASD on the Pervasive Developmental Disorders Screening Test–II, Stage 2 (21% vs 32%; risk ratio = 0.66 [95% confidence interval: 0.45 to 0.97]; risk difference = –0.11 [95% confidence interval: –0.21 to –0.01]) compared with children randomly assigned to a placebo.CONCLUSIONS:
No evidence of benefit of DHA + AA supplementation on caregiver-reported outcomes of broad socioemotional development was observed. Supplementation resulted in decreased risk of clinical concern for ASD. Further exploration in larger samples of preterm children and continued follow-up of children who received DHA + AA supplementation as they approach school age is warranted.