Pregnant mothers who take fish oil-type supplements containing DHA have been found to have infants with a lower rate of colds early on in life. Cold symptoms occurred 24% less often in babies whose mothers consumed DHA during pregnancy.
Medpage Today reports:
Symptoms resolved faster throughout the first six months of life for the supplement group compared with the placebo group, they reported in the September issue of Pediatrics.
Oil from cold-water fish is a common source of DHA found in supplements, but the study used an algae source instead to help with blinding by minimizing the fishy taste that might have been a giveaway.
Whatever the source, the results suggested that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids like DHA “may influence fetal and infant immune function,” the group wrote inPediatrics.
Other studies have shown less infant atopic sensitization after prenatal DHA supplementation and fewer and less severe illnesses, particularly respiratory ones, with supplementation during childhood.
Ramakrishnan’s group randomized 1,094 pregnant women in Mexico to receive 400 mg DHA or placebo daily during the later half of gestation.
Birth outcomes and subsequent breastfeeding were similar between groups. The DHA supplementation group showed higher levels of DHA in maternal plasma and in breast milk, as expected.
Cold symptoms altogether were less frequent at age 1 month with prenatal DHA (37.6% versus 44.6% with placebo, P<0.05).
At 3 months, infants in the DHA group spent 14% less time ill overall (P<0.0001), with a trend for less cold symptom occurrence (37.8% versus 44.1%, respectively).
Cough, nasal congestion, and other individual symptoms didn’t differ in incidence between groups, but typically had shorter duration in the DHA group.
At 1 month, symptom duration for the DHA group compared with the placebo group was (all P≤0.01):
- 26% shorter for cough
- 15%, shorter for phlegm
- 30% shorter for wheezing
- 22% longer for rash
At 6 months, symptom duration differences in the DHA versus placebo group were (allP<0.05):
- 20% shorter for fever
- 13% shorter for nasal secretion
- 54% shorter for difficulty breathing
- 23% shorter for rash
- 25% shorter for “other illness,” such as ear infections and sore throats
- 74% longer for vomiting
Diarrhea didn’t differ between groups at 1, 3, and six months.
The results were most consistently in favor of supplementation for upper respiratory symptoms, with a greater number of statistically significant results than expected from chance alone, according to the researchers.
They cautioned, though, that symptoms were mother-reported and not confirmed by a clinician.
The Mexican women in the study had low DHA intakes prior to supplementation, at a median 80 mg per day compared with an estimated 100 mg to 200 mg per day of DHA among women in the U.S.
The researchers suggested that their results should be generalized pregnant women
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