DHA and Fish Oil Use in Pregnancy

2010 October 20
by Daniel Lakeland

The NY Times reports on a recent study of supplementation of pregnant women with DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid, a kind of Omega 3 fat) and how it affects the intelligence of offspring. An earlier, smaller study in Norway had indicated that by age 4 children supplemented in utero with DHA were smarter than those not supplemented. On the basis of that, and some other possible benefits, most prenatal vitamins now include an Omega-3 oil supplement.

The difficult thing is whether it's really possible to measure these effects, but this study, in Australia, used randomized controlled trials and found no benefit either to womens postpartum depression, or to cognitive development in children at 18 months. However, they have not got any data at 4 years like the Norwegian study. Perhaps at 18 months the variability is larger due to different rates of language acquisition naturally occurring in the population for example.  I would guess that intelligence is hard enough to measure that without a strong signal, things get lost in the noise.

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