Fish oil during pregnancy may enhance children's cognition

The study was designed to examine the long-term effect of maternal supplementation with fish oil and/or 5-MTHF (folic acid) on resting state functioning

An EU funded study presented at the 6th World Congress of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition has found taking fish oil during pregnancy may be associated with faster problem-solving skills and better attention focus in the child at age 10.

The study was designed to examine the long-term effect of maternal supplementation with fish oil and/or 5-MTHF (folic acid) on resting state functioning – when a person is not engaged in a cognitive or active task – in school-age children.

Professor Dr Berthold Koletzko, Head of Metabolic and Nutritional Medicine at Dr. von Hauner Children's Hospital, University of Munich Medical Centre, Germany, and one of the study's authors, said: “The results demonstrate that the quality of maternal nutrient supply during the period of rapid early brain development in pregnancy, has a lasting impact on later brain function at school age. Women before and during pregnancy should therefore be supported in achieving a good quality diet and be counselled on potential fish oil supplement use.”

Coordinator of the study and Director of the EURISTIKOS Excellence Centre for Paediatric Research at the University of Granada, Spain, Professor Christina Campoy, added: “Our research provides evidence that children born to mothers who had taken fish oil during the second half of pregnancy had improved memory.”

The study followed up on 57 children of mothers from a previous research programme who had been given 500 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and 150 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) fish oils per day, either with or without 400 µg of 5-MTHF (folic acid), folic acid alone, or placebo, during the second half of their pregnancies.

Professor Magnus Domellöf, Chair of the ESPGHAN Nutrition Committee, commented: “The results from this study indicate that early nutrition during pregnancy can have a significant impact on brain development in children, with the potential to enhance cognitive performance. We look forward to the outcomes of this study being tested in further trials.”

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