Consuming Omega 3 Fatty Acids During Pregnancy Good for Infant Health

A new study recommends that women consume Omega 3 fatty acids during pregnancy to help protect babies against illness during early infancy.

Emory University researchers followed 1,100 women and 900 infants throughout pregnancy and early infancy.  Some women were randomly assigned to supplement their diets with 400 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from 18 to 22 weeks of gestation through childbirth.

The researchers found that the infants of the mothers who took DHA supplements had fewer colds and shorter illnesses at one, three and six months of age than infants on mothers who took placebos.

At one month of age, the infants of mothers who took supplements had a 25 percent reduced occurrence of experiencing cold symptoms, such as cough, phlegm and wheezing.

At three months, the infants spent 14 percent less time ill.

At six months, the infants exhibited shorter durations of fevers, naval secretions, difficulties breathing and rashes.

“This is a large scale, robust study that underscores the importance of good nutrition during pregnancy,” says Usha Ramakrishnan, PhD, associate professor at Emory. “Our findings indicate that pregnant women taking 400 mg of DHA are more likely to deliver healthier infants.”

The infants were also on average 100 grams heavier at birth and3/4 cm longer at 18 months of age.

According to researchers, there are also increased DHA levels in breast milk.  All infants in the study were breast fed.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in Pediatrics.