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Pregnancy, Fish Oil And Smarter Babies
According to a recent study that was published in the ‘Archives of Disease in Childhood’ in 2006, babies born to women who took fish oil supplements during the last 4 months of pregnancy had better hand-eye coordination , they were better speakers and could understand more. at two and a half years, than babies born to mothers who instead were given olive oil.
The double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial was conducted by the University of Western Australia and led by Professor Susan Prescott. The King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children and the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research and the Center for Child Health Research Australia also took part in the study.
A total of 98 women were initially enrolled in the study, all of whom were non-smokers and who did not regularly consume more than 2 servings of oily fish per week. A total of eighty-three of these women completed the study. The researchers gave half of the women in the trial 4 grams of fish oil supplements daily starting at twenty weeks pregnant, and these supplements contained a combination of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid ( DHA). The rest of the women received 4 g of olive oil. A total of 72 of the babies had developmental checks when they were two and a half years old.
Children whose mothers received fish oil scored significantly higher for hand-eye coordination than infants whose mothers received olive oil. Growth rates were similar in both groups, as were overall language skills, however, the fish oil group showed higher scores for receptive language, sentence length, and vocabulary. The positive results were not related to potentially influential factors such as maternal age and duration of breastfeeding, as these factors had already been accounted for.
Fatty acids and the brain
The link between Omega 3 fatty acids and the brain is already well established and many studies have now shown that fish oil can alleviate symptoms or help prevent the onset of various types of depressive disorders, including postnatal depression. EPA in particular is thought to improve concentration and memory and cognitive function in general, and some studies have shown that it may even help prevent or slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease.
It is during the last three months of pregnancy that the baby’s brain develops very rapidly and therefore this is a time when it is especially vital that the mother gets enough Omega 3 essential fatty acids which are only found in significant amounts in fats fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and anchovy. These fatty acids facilitate healthy brain structure and development and many practitioners now believe that DHA is important for brain structure and EPA for efficient day-to-day brain function.
Scientists at the University of Bristol in the UK are currently investigating the benefits of giving fish oil to children, as much of the evidence so far comes from dietary factors during pregnancy. For example, earlier research from the University of Bristol found that children whose mothers ate fish regularly during pregnancy had better vision and cognitive and behavioral development than those whose mothers ate little or no fish.
So why don’t we eat more fish?
Because of the potentially high levels of toxins, especially mercury, in fresh fish, the current recommendation is that pregnant women and women and girls who may one day have a baby in the future eat no more than 2 servings of fish a a week, one of which should be oily, and no more than 4 portions of fish for all others, no more than two of which should be fatty.
Indications are that pharmaceutical grade fish oil can be an option for everyone, including during pregnancy and beyond. In fact, this type of fish oil is superior to standard grade fish oils and is becoming increasingly popular because the processes involved in its production means that the oil has been filtered and concentrated to contain high levels of all important fatty acids without the danger of associated toxins. with fresh fish
The Australian study seems to suggest that there are no adverse effects for the mother or the baby from taking relatively high doses of fish oil in late pregnancy. Not only can it have a beneficial effect on the baby’s cognitive development and reduce the risk of developing postnatal depression, but there are also many other health benefits associated with taking fish oil. However, if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant and would like to consider taking fish oil supplements, it is important to first discuss the implications with your doctor or other health care provider.
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