Fish Oil in Pregnancy Linked to Toddler Hand Coordination

Taking fish oil supplements in last 20 weeks of pregnancy seemed safe, but more study needed

MONDAY, Dec. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Children born to women who take fish oil supplements during late pregnancy have better eye/hand coordination at age 2 to 3 years than their counterparts whose mothers did not take the supplements, according to a study published online Dec. 21 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood--Fetal and Neonatal Edition.

Janet A. Dunstan, M.D., of the University of Western Australia in Perth, and colleagues randomized 98 pregnant women to take about 4 grams of n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (about the amount in one fatty fish meal per day) or 4 grams of olive oil per day from 20 weeks gestation until birth. Researchers used standard measures to assess infant growth and cognitive development when the children turned age 2.5 years.

Children whose mothers took fish oil supplements scored significantly higher for eye/hand coordination than children whose mothers took olive oil supplements (mean score of 114 versus 108, respectively). There were no significant differences in tests of receptive language, average phrase length and vocabulary. The fish oil supplements seemed safe in light of concerns about mercury toxicity.

"These preliminary data indicate that supplementation with a relatively high-dose fish oil during the last 20 weeks of pregnancy is not only safe, but also seems to have potential beneficial effects that need to be explored further," the study authors conclude.

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