Taking fish oil during pregnancy may mean healthier babies. From Google Images
A new study shows that pregnant women who take fish oil supplements give birth to infants who are sick less often and for shorter periods of time than others.
Positive Effects of DHA
Infants whose mothers were given docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil, appeared to have stronger immune systems than babies whose mothers got none (as evidenced by fewer colds and shorter durations for colds). Usha Ramakrishnan (the study’s main author), a researcher in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University does not see DHA as a cure for the common cold, but she does think the study suggests a possible health benefit.
The Study by the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University
The study (which was published in the journal Pediatrics) tracked 851 Mexican women from the second trimester of pregnancy until the infants were six months old. The study was split about 50/50 between women receiving 400 milligrams of DHA each day and women who were given placebos. After the babies were born, the new moms were interviewed when the babies were one month, three months and six months old. Each interview included questions about whether the babies had experienced respiratory symptoms (cough, phlegm, nasal congestion, wheezing, etc) in the previous 15 days and questions about whether their infants had caught a cold during that time.
After one month, when babies whose mothers took DHA got sick, they experienced respiratory symptoms that were shorter in duration. Ramakrishnan indicates earlier research showing that different kinds of cells can be improved by omega-3 fatty acids would support the idea that DHA boosts immune systems.
Other Benefits of DHA?
There had been earlier research which suggested that DHA supplements might boost cognitive development in infants, but this was essentially proven false by a large study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Don’t Jump to Conclusions
Dr. Samuel Parry, chief of the division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, urges women to be careful about choosing supplements because many are not regulated by the FDA. As for DHA in particular, he says “We don’t think DHA causes harm in pregnancy, but we’re skeptical that it really helps prevent colds in babies.” He prefers to wait until more research is done before recommending it to his patients.
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