Omega-3s During Pregnancy: How They Might Help Baby

Omega-3s during pregnancy may improve fetal iron metabolism

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Lots of research suggests that omega-3s may have health benefits for those who consume them. For pregnant women, those benefits may extend to baby.

In a recent study, women who consumed a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy had babies with stronger iron metabolism — meaning these babies could be less likely to have anemia.

In anemia, the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells to distribute adequate oxygen throughout the body. This condition can be the result of too little iron in the body.

Babies born with anemia caused by too little iron can face serious complications, such as slowed cognitive development and low birth weight, the authors of this study noted.

Pregnant women who supplement with omega-3s may be less likely to have babies born with too little iron, according to lead study authors Drs. Javier Díaz Castro and Julio José Ochoa Herrera, both from the University of Granada in Spain, and colleagues.

The omega-3s in this study came in the form of a dairy drink enhanced with 400 milligrams of fish oil. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to a host of health benefits, such as reduced heart disease and depression risk — although some past studies suggest these benefits may be overblown in some cases.

Drs. Castro and Herrera and colleagues studied 110 pregnant women. Around half of these women consumed a balanced diet, which included fish and a twice-daily dairy drink that was not enhanced with omega-3s. The other half consumed a balanced diet and supplemented with two glasses of the omega-3 dairy drink per day.

After the women in this study gave birth, these researchers took samples from their babies' placentas. They found that women who supplemented with the omega-3 drink had babies who were born with more iron in their bodies.

Drs. Castro and Herrera said that this could mean that these babies are less likely to have anemia.

This study was limited by its small size. More research on larger numbers of patients is required before any official recommendations about omega-3 intake during pregnancy can be made.

Pregnant women should talk to their doctors about how to achieve a balanced, healthy diet.

This study was published in the Journal of Functional Foods. A grant from the Granada Research of Excellence Initiative on BioHealth funded this research. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
February 26, 2016
Last Updated:
February 26, 2016