Animal studies have demonstrated behavioural effects of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LC-PUFA) deficiencies and in humans, several psychiatric disorders have been linked to abnormal essential fatty acid metabolism.

The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between LC-PUFA status at birth and the later development of problem behaviour.

In a sample of 393 children, higher levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) at birth were associated with lower levels of internalising problem behaviour at age 7 years.

The association was markedly present in the infants fed with artificial formula (n=215, Beta=-0.32, P=0.000), but absent in the infants fed with human milk (n=170, Beta=0.11, P=0.325). The associations between arachidonic acid and internalising or externalising behaviour were neither large nor significant.

The results suggest that perinatal DHA status may have long-term behavioural consequences. Therefore, we suggest to include measures of problem behaviour in future trials of LC-PUFA supplementation of mothers and/or infants.