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Can omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy affect growth and development in children?

This secondary analysis of a large and long trial found some promising results.

Study under review: Effect of fish oil supplementation in pregnancy on bone, lean, and fat mass at six years: randomised clinical trial.

Introduction

The goal of any expecting mother is to have a happy, healthy baby. To that end, nutrition and nutrient availability during pregnancy are critical factors[1] for the development and long-term health of the child. Omega-3 fats such as EPA and DHA are essential[2] for embryonic development, but can’t be synthesized well by the human body and need to be obtained through diet or supplementation.

Both observational studies and randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have suggested that omega-3 supplementation[3] during pregnancy may result in higher birth weight in children. The cause of higher birth weight isn’t clear, since omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy has also been linked to an increase[4] in gestational age. Increased birth weight could be due to an actual increase in size[5] for gestational age, or just an artifact of an increased amount of time in utero[4]. Moreover, the long-term effects of omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy on anthropometric outcomes in children is also not clear, with previous studies[3] reporting mixed results.

The study under review investigated whether mothers taking omega-3 supplements during pregnancy would experience a long-term effect on the growth and development of their child.

Omega-3 fats like EPA and DHA are essential for embryonic development. Previous research has suggested that a mother’s omega-3 intake could improve their child’s growth. The goal of the study under review was to examine this hypothesis in the long term.

Who and what was studied

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Other Articles in Issue #50 (December 2018)