Long-chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Adolescent Brain Development: A Dietary Intervention

2015 - 2018
Jordi Júlvez
Funded by
Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades. Instituto de Salud Carlos III Unión Europea Este proyecto está cofinanciado por el Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional (FEDER). “Una manera de hacer Europa”


Adolescence is an important period for brain development as a result of increased synaptic plasticity. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) are essential nutrients for brain development and protection against oxidative stress. Walnuts have the highest n-3 PUFA concentrations of all edible plants. Objective: We hypothesize that walnut intake will increase n-3 PUFA availability in the body to a level that enhances the development of the brain during adolescence. We will conduct a long-term (6 months) populationbased randomized controlled trial in teenagers (n=800), and determine the effectiveness of the intervention (four walnuts per day, ~1.5g of n-3 PUFA) in enhancing brain development.


Fieldwork team from the INMA-Sabadell cohort study will contact cohort families and classmates in collaboration with the schools. Families will receive a basic guide on following a healthy diet in order to ensure implementation and adherence. Brain development outcomes will be measured at baseline and after the intervention. The use of computerized neuropsychological tests will provide the precision required to detect even subtle changes in brain development resulting from the nutritional intervention. Behavioural (socio-emotional) development will be assessed in order to cover a wider picture of brain development. Blood samples will be collected to measure n-3 PUFA levels after the intervention in a randomized subsample from both groups (control/ intervention). Linear regression models adjusted for baseline neuropsychological scores will be used to analyze the intervention effect.


The outcomes of this Project are expected to be a greater understanding of the role of n-3 PUFA intake (walnut) in brain development. A major goal in public health research is to develop cost-effective health recommendations to teenagers.

Total Funding

121,500 €

Project Code


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