Omega 3s and Immunity
by Mommy MD Guide Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH
When moms-to-be consume omega 3 fatty acids during pregnancy and subsequently breastfeed, they deliver healthier babies who are protected against illnesses during early infancy.
Researchers at Emory University reported these findings* after following approximately 1,100 pregnant women and 900 infants in Mexico. The women were given 400 mg of DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) or placebo beginning at 18 to 22 weeks of their pregnancies through childbirth. All of the women in the study breastfed their babies.
The scientists found that babies whose mothers took the DHA supplements had fewer colds and shorter illnesses at one, three, and six months of age.
When the babies in the DHA group were one month of age, they experienced a reduced occurrence of cold symptoms by 25 percent, including a shorter duration of cough, phlegm production, and wheezing. When they were three months old, they spent 14 percent less time ill. By six months of age, infants in the DHA group experienced shorter duration of fever, nasal secretions, difficulty breathing, and rash.
The researchers also found increased DHA levels in mothers’ breast milk. A previous study showed women who were pregnant for the first time and who received 400 mg DHA during pregnancy delivered babies who were 100 grams heavier at birth and 3/4 cm longer at 18 months of age.
If you’re a mom-to-be, taking the omega 3 fatty acid DHA daily during your pregnancy is a smart move. It’s a small step that can make a big difference in your baby’s future health.
*Beth Imhoff-Kunsch, Aryeh D. Stein, Reynaldo Martorell, Socorro Parra-Cabrera, Isabelle Romieu, and Usha Ramakrishnan. Prenatal Docosahexaenoic Acid Supplementation and Infant Morbidity: Randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics, September, 2011 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2010-1386