Pregnant women taking DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid in fish oil, give birth to babies that score slightly better on several health measurements than those born to women who don’t take the supplement, a study has found.
DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is a nutrient that promotes brain development (SN Online: 1/13/2009). Susan Carlson of the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City and her colleagues randomly assigned 350 women to take daily capsules of either a placebo or DHA starting midway through pregnancy. Babies born to the women who took DHA were slightly longer and heavier than the other babies and were less apt to spend time in the intensive care unit.Overall rates of preterm birth, defined as birth before the 37th week of gestation, didn’t differ substantially between the groups. But among preterm babies, those in the DHA group spent an average of nine days in the hospital compared with 41 days for those in the placebo group. While only one of 154 babies in the DHA group was born very early — before 34 weeks’ gestation — seven of 147 babies to non-DHA mothers were born that early, Carlson and colleagues report in the April American Journal of Clinical Nutrition .