Washington, Feb 26 (IANS) Women administered a 600 mg dose of omega-3 fatty acid DHA during pregnancy gave birth to babies weighing more, even before 34 weeks of gestation, than babies of mothers given a placebo (sugar pills), according to a finding.
The finding from the University of Kansas greatly strengthens the case for using the dietary supplement during pregnancy. It is based on the first five years of a 10-year, double-blind randomized controlled trial.
A follow-up of this sample of infants is ongoing to determine whether prenatal DHA nutritional supplementation will benefit children's intelligence and school readiness, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports.
"A reduction in early pre-term and very low birth weight delivery could have clear clinical and public health significance," said Susan Carlson, professor of dietetics and nutrition at the Kansas Medical Centre, who co-authored the study with John Colombo, Kansas professor of psychology.
"We believe that supplementing US women with DHA could safely increase mean birth weight and gestational age to numbers that are closer to other developed countries such as Norway and Australia," Carlson said, according to a Kansas statement.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) occurs naturally in cell membranes with the highest levels in brain cells, but levels can be increased by diet or supplements.
An infant obtains DHA from his or her mother in the womb and from human milk, but the amount received depends upon the mother's DHA status.
During the first five years of the study, children of women enrolled in the study received multiple developmental assessments at regular intervals throughout infancy and at 18 months of age.
In the next phase, the children will receive twice-yearly assessments until they are six years old.
Researchers will measure developmental milestones that occur in later childhood and are linked to lifelong health and welfare.