BACKGROUND: Infant cognitive development can be positively influenced by breastfeeding rather than formula feeding. The composition of breast milk, especially lipid quality, and the duration of breastfeeding have been linked to this effect.
OBJECTIVE: We investigated whether the physical properties and composition of lipid droplets in milk may contribute to cognitive development.
METHODS: From postnatal day (P) 16 to P44, healthy male C57BL/6JOlaHsd mice were fed either a control or a concept rodent diet, in which the dietary lipid droplets were large and coated with milk phospholipids, resembling more closely the physical properties and composition of breast milk lipids. Thereafter, all mice were fed an AIN-93M semisynthetic rodent diet. The mice were subjected to various cognitive tests during adolescence (P35-P44) and adulthood (P70-P101). On P102, mice were killed and brain phospholipids were analyzed.
RESULTS: The concept diet improved performance in short-term memory tasks that rely on novelty exploration during adolescence (T-maze; spontaneous alternation 87% in concept-fed mice compared with 74% in mice fed control diet; P < 0.05) and adulthood (novel object recognition; preference index 0.48 in concept-fed mice compared with 0.05 in control-fed mice; P < 0.05). Cognitive performance in long-term memory tasks, however, was unaffected by diet. Brain phospholipid composition at P102 was not different between diet groups.
CONCLUSIONS: Exposure to a diet with lipids mimicking more closely the structure and composition of lipids in breast milk improved specific cognitive behaviors in mice. These data suggest that lipid structure should be considered as a relevant target to improve dietary lipid quality in infant milk formulas.