LMU 123 – Omega-3 Fats: Nurturing Healthy Beginnings for Both Mom and Baby
Source: Journal of Nutrition (November 2018)
Lifestyle Medicine Update (March 23, 2019)
Pregnancy is a journey of profound significance, where the health and well-being of both the mother and the growing baby take center stage. In this intricate dance of life, emerging research sheds light on a powerful ally for expectant mothers: Omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fats, celebrated for their myriad health benefits, are unveiling an impressive role in pregnancy outcomes. A groundbreaking double-blind randomized controlled study, published in the Journal of Nutrition in November 2018, has ignited excitement by revealing that supplementing pregnant women with Omega-3 Fats during the third trimester holds the potential to enhance pregnancy outcomes, ensuring prolonged gestation periods and healthier infant birth weights.
Elevating Pregnancy Outcomes: Unveiling the Study
The study in question, a significant milestone in the realm of prenatal health, engaged 736 pregnant women along with their precious offspring. Divided into two groups, the women embarked on a journey that would ultimately redefine the trajectory of their pregnancy experiences. The experimental group embarked on a regimen of daily Omega-3 Fat supplementation, ingesting a dose of 2.4 gm (2,400 mg) between weeks 22 and 26 of their pregnancy. This regimen continued until the remarkable moment of their child’s birth. The other group, serving as a control, consumed a supplement containing olive oil. The results of this pivotal investigation showcased an impressive narrative: women benefiting from Omega-3 Fat supplementation exhibited extended gestational periods, robust fetal growth within the womb, and an accompanying gift of higher birth weights for their infants.
A Tapestry of Evidence
The revelation doesn’t stop here. The tale of Omega-3 Fats and their influence on pregnancy outcomes is woven with multiple threads of scientific inquiry. The Kansas University DHA Outcome Study (KUDOS) ventured into the realm of Omega-3 supplementation during the last two trimesters of pregnancy, yielding promising results: a noteworthy reduction in preterm births. This finding found resonance in the data derived from the “DHA to Optimize Mother and Infant Outcome trial” (DOMinO) conducted by Australian researchers. Their findings echoed a 15% reduction in preterm birth rates, further bolstering the potential of Omega-3 Fats in sculpting healthier beginnings.
In an astonishing turn of events, the Cochrane Review, a comprehensive analysis that assimilated insights from over 70 controlled trials, unveiled even more staggering figures. Supplementation with Omega-3 Fats, specifically DHA and EPA—naturally occurring in fish oil supplements—emerged as a potent shield against preterm births. The review disclosed a 42% decrease in the risk of early preterm births (less than 32 weeks), an 11% reduction in preterm births (34-37 weeks), and a significant 10% decline in the risk of delivering a small baby (less than 2,500 gm). This powerful compilation of evidence underscores the transformative potential of Omega-3 supplementation in the realm of maternal and infant health.
From Birth to Brilliance: The Role of DHA
Delving into the essence of Omega-3 Fats, particularly DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), unlocks a chapter of paramount importance in the intricate tale of pregnancy. Studies have unveiled a profound connection between higher DHA intake by women prior to conception, during pregnancy, and even during the lactation phase post-delivery. The dots connect to reveal a vivid picture: elevated DHA levels translate to higher IQ levels in offspring. The reason behind this marvel lies in DHA’s critical role as a nutrient for the developing brain of the fetus and the newborn, underscoring its contribution to shaping cognitive health.
Embracing a Healthier Journey
While the journey towards universally recommending Omega-3 fatty acid supplements to pregnant women may take time, the treasure trove of research underscores the importance of initiating conversations with attending physicians. As we navigate the terrain of pregnancy, Omega-3 Fat supplementation—from sources rich in EPA and DHA—presents itself as a potent ally. The evidence extends a reassuring hand, suggesting that this supplementation could potentially reduce the risk of preterm births, bolster fetal growth, enhance brain development, and optimize birth weights.
However, the impact doesn’t end at birth. Continuing Omega-3 supplementation post-delivery plays a vital role in ensuring optimal DHA levels in breast milk. These levels, critical in supporting an infant’s brain development—especially in the first three months of life—usher in an era where nurturing cognitive health begins even before a child takes their first breath.
The Promise of Omega-3 Fats
In the grand tapestry of life, Omega-3 Fats emerge as a vibrant thread, weaving a narrative of hope and well-being for mothers and their unborn children. From prolonging gestational periods to nurturing cognitive brilliance, the journey of Omega-3 Fats through pregnancy is one of empowerment and promise. As science unearths the layers of this multifaceted nutrient, it becomes increasingly evident that Omega-3 Fats are poised to rewrite the story of pregnancy outcomes, enriching the chapters of health and vitality for generations to come.
- Kofod Vinding R, Stokholm J, et al. Fish oil supplementation in pregnancy increases gestational age, size for gestational age, and birth weight in infants: A randomized controlled trial. *Journal of Nutrition*. November 9, 2018. [Link](https://academic.oup.com/jn/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/jn/nxy204/5167900?redirectedFrom=fulltext)
- Kudos Study: Department of Dietetics and Nutrition Kansas City Medical Center: University of Kansas. [Link](http://www.kumc.edu/school-of-health-professions/dietetics-and-nutrition/our-faculty/carlson.html)
- Ahmed S, Makrides M et al. Analysis of hospital cost outcome of DHA-rich fish-oil supplementation in pregnancy: Evidence from a randomized controlled trial. *Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids*. Dec 2015. [Link](https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26432510)
- Cochrane Review: Omega-3 fatty acid during pregnancy. November 15, 2018. [Link](https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD003402.pub3/full)
- DHA and Brain Development: American Pregnancy Association. [Link](https://americanpregnancy.org/first-year-of-life/omega-3-supplements-baby/)
Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,
Dr. James Meschino
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. James Meschino, DC, MS, ROHP, is an educator, author, and researcher having lectured to thousands of healthcare professionals across North America. He holds a Master’s Degree in Science with specialties in human nutrition and biology and is recognized as an expert in the field of nutrition, anti-aging, fitness, and wellness as well as the author of numerous books.