Red blood cell omega: 3 fatty acids and attention scores in healthy adolescents

Ariadna Pinar-Marti, Silvia Fernandez-Barres, Florence Gignac, Cecilia Persavento, Anna Delgado, Dora Romaguera, Iolanda Lazaro, Emilio Ros, Monica Lopez-Vicente, Jordi Salas-Salvado, Aleix Sala-Vila, Jordi Julvez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for brain function. Adolescence is increasingly believed to entail brain vulnerability to dietary intake. In contrast to the abundant research on the omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in cognition, research on DHA and attention in healthy adolescents is scarce. In addition, the role of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the vegetable omega-3 fatty acid, is unexplored. We examined associations between DHA and ALA and attention function among a healthy young population. In this cross-sectional study conducted in 372 adolescents (13.8 +/- 0.9 years-old), we determined the red blood cell proportions of DHA and ALA by gas chromatography (objective biomarkers of their long-term dietary intake) and measured attention scores through the Attention Network Test. We constructed multivariable linear regression models to analyze associations, controlling for known confounders. Compared to participants at the lowest DHA tertile (reference), those at the highest DHA tertile showed significantly lower hit reaction time-standard error (higher attentiveness) (28.13 ms, 95% confidence interval [CI] = - 52.30; - 3.97), lower hit reaction time ( - 38.30 ms, 95% CI = - 73.28; - 3.33) and lower executive conflict response ( - 5.77 ms, 95% CI = - 11.44; - 0.09). In contrast, higher values were observed in those at the top tertile of ALA in hit reaction time compared to the lowest one (46.14 ms, 95% CI = 9.90; 82.34). However, a beneficial association was observed for ALA, with decreasing impulsivity index across tertiles. Overall, our results suggest that DHA (reflecting its dietary intake) is associated with attention performance in typically developing adolescents. The role of dietary ALA in attention is less clear, although higher blood levels of ALA appear to result in lower impulsivity. Future intervention studies are needed to determine the causality of these associations and to better shape dietary recommendations for brain health during the adolescence period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2187-2195
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number11
Early online date12 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by Instituto de Salud Carlos III through the projects ‘CP14/00108, PI16/00261, PI21/00266’ (co-funded by European Regional Development Fund ‘A way to make Europe’). JJ holds a Miguel Servet-II contract (grant CPII19/00015) awarded by the Instituto de Salud Carlos III (Co-funded by European Social Fund "Investing in your future"). The California Walnut Commission (CWC) has given support by supplying the walnuts for free for the Walnuts Smart Snack Dietary Intervention Trial. The funders have no role in the study design, collection, management, analysis and interpretation of data, writing of the report or decision to submit it for publication. The authors have no relevant interests to disclose.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


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