Baby Gets Protective Benefits of DHA if Taken During Pregnancy

A recent study implies that taking in Omega 3 fatty acids during pregnancy protects babies against illness once they reach early infancy.

An Emory University study implies that taking in Omega 3 fatty acids during pregnancy protects babies against illness once they reach early infancy.

The study was a randomized, placebo-controlled trial which focused on roughly 1,100 pregnant women and 900 infants in Mexico. The mothers-to-be were administered either 400 mg of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) supplements daily or a placebo starting at eighteen to twenty-two weeks gestation until childbirth.

The researchers discovered that the babies of mothers who were given DHA supplements suffered fewer colds and shorter illnesses throughout their first six months of life.

"This is a large scale, robust study that underscores the importance of good nutrition during pregnancy," reported Usha Ramakrishnan, PhD, associate professor, Hubert Department of Global Health at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health. "Our findings indicate that pregnant women taking 400 mg of DHA are more likely to deliver healthier infants."

The infants in the DHA group experienced a reduced occurrence of cold symptoms by 25% at the age of one month old. This includes a shorter period of cough, phlegm, and wheezing.

At three months of age, the infants in the DHA group spent 14% less time sick.

At six months, the infants in the DHA group underwent shorter periods of time suffering from fever, nasal secretion, difficulty breathing and rash, although the researchers found they did experience a longer duration of vomiting.

In previous reports, Ramakrishnan and her colleagues released results showing that the offspring of women who received 400 mg DHA during pregnancy and were pregnant with their first child delivered infants who were 100 grams heavier at birth; these children also went on to be 3/4 cm longer by the time they reached eighteen months of life.

This study was funded by the NIH and the March of Dimes Foundation and was also found to increase DHA levels in breast milk. All of the infants participating in the study were breastfed.

The study was published online today in Pediatrics.