Research: DUNSTAN and COLLEAGUES,

Listed in Issue 160

Abstract

DUNSTAN and COLLEAGUES, School of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia studied the effects of antenatal omega-3 fish oil supplementation upon safety and cognitive development of children.

Background

To assess the effects of antenatal omega 3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (n-3 LC PUFA) on cognitive development in a cohort of children whose mothers received high-dose fish oil in pregnancy.

Methodology

A double-blind randomised placebo-controlled trial. Setting: Perth, Western Australia, Australia. Patients: 98 pregnant women received the supplementation from 20 weeks' gestation until delivery. Their infants (n = 72) were assessed at age 2(1/2) years. Interventions: Fish oil (2.2 g docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and 1.1 g eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)/day) or olive oil from 20 weeks' gestation until delivery. Outcome Measures: Effects on infant growth and developmental quotients (Griffiths Mental Development Scales), receptive language (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test) and behaviour (Child Behaviour Checklist).

Results

Children in the fish oil-supplemented group (n = 33) attained a significantly higher score for eye and hand coordination (mean ((SD) score 114 (10.2)) than those in the placebo group (n = 39, mean score 108 (SD 11.3); p = 0.021, adjusted p = 0.008). Eye and hand coordination scores correlated with n-3 PUFA levels in cord blood erythrocytes (EPA: r = 0.320, p = 0.007; DHA: r = 0.308, p = 0.009) and inversely correlated with n-6 PUFA (arachidonic acid 20:4n-6: r = -0.331, p = 0.005). Growth measurements in the two groups were similar at age 2(1/2) years.

Conclusion

Maternal fish oil supplementation during pregnancy is safe for the foetus and infant, and may have potentially beneficial effects on the child's eye and hand coordination. Further studies are needed to determine the significance of this finding.

References

Dunstan JA,  Simmer K,  Dixon G AND  Prescott SL. Cognitive assessment of children at age 2(1/2) years after maternal fish oil supplementation in pregnancy: a randomised controlled trial.[see comment]. Archives of Disease in Childhood Fetal & Neonatal Edition. 93(1):F45-50. Jan 2008. Comment in: Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2008 Jan;93(1):F4-6; PMID: 18156446.

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