Australian Researchers Disprove Benefits of Omega-3 Supplements on Babies' Development

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A baby stroller is seen as mothers play with their children at a public area in downtown Shanghai November 19, 2013.
A baby stroller is seen as mothers play with their children at a public area in downtown Shanghai November 19, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements were found to have no benefits on a child's brain development. A major Australian study has found that pregnant mothers who take pre-natal supplements rich in the omega-3 may be wasting their time.

After studying over 600 children until the age of four, Australian researchers revealed the children whose mothers took omega-3 supplements and those who were given only a placebo had no differences in areas of cognition, language and motor skills.

The study was pubished in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). According to lead researcher and professor Maria Makrides of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute and the University of Adelaide, the findings of the study are "significant," considering the promotion fish oil supplements get.

The consumption of fish oil supplements are currently being promoted because of its reported benefits such as prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Regular consumption of fish oil may help lower blood pressure of hypertensive individuals.  Fish oil also contains anti-inflammatory properties which can reduce the risk of some types of cancer. 

According to previous studies, one major concern with regards to fish oil is its risk of exposure to toxic substances such as lipid peroxides. These could be harmful to health when they enter the human body.  Because of this risk, fish oil manufacturers have added special methods to ensure that their fish oil supplements are safe for consumption.

No effect on early childhood development 

The study only focused on a child's brain development and did not test the other benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers gave two groups of pregnant women either an omeg-3 fatty acid supplement or a placebo. No differences were recording in the two groups at 18 months.

After four years, their children were tested to check if there are differences in cognition or the ability to perform complex mental processing.  Researchers also checked if there are marked differences in language, memory, problem solving and reasoning abilities.

Researchers found no differences between the two groups of children. The Australian researchers said their study does not support DHA omega-3 supplementation to boost early childhood development. 

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