Food and Behaviour Research

Donate Log In

6 April 2016 - Nutraingredients - “Exciting results”: Tufts/Harvard meta-analysis supports omega-3s for child brain development

Stephen Daniells

FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:

For more details of this new research study, see:
See also the following news article, reporting on the potential cost savings to the health service - even in the very short-term - that would be expected from providing omega-3 supplements to all pregnant mothers in Australia, where the largest single clinical trial was conducted:

Scientists from Tufts University and Harvard report that data from 2,525 children indicated that supplementation with the omega-3s docosahexanoic acid (DHA) and/or eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) during pregnancy or infancy improved motor skills in the children.

They also reported that that supplementation with DHA and arachidonic acid (AA) raised the mental developmental scores in the children.

“These findings indicate the importance of sufficient polyunsaturated fatty acid intake by pregnant women and young children,” wrote the researchers in The FASEB Journal .

The data was presented at this week’s Experimental Biology event in San Diego, CA.

“Corroborates what many scientists have believed for a long time”

Commenting independently on the study Harry Rice, PhD, VP of regulatory & scientific affairs for the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED), told us: “Clearly, these are exciting results and corroborate what many scientists have believed for a long time. That is, omega-3 supplementation, during either pregnancy or infancy has an impact on a child's neurodevelopment. I look forward to a more in-depth review of the research once the peer-reviewed article is published.”

Study details

Led by Masha Shulkin from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, the authors noted that they searched a number of scientific databases for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of omega-3 supplementation for neurodevelopment or cognition. To be included in the analysis the supplementation had to be for longer than three months.

They identified 15 trials with 20 intervention arms involving 2,525 children. Four intervention arms were for omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy and 16 arms were for infant supplementation. The mean supplementation duration was 7.3 months, they said, and cognitive measures were taken around 16 months.

Results showed that “both maternal and infant supplementation similarly improved neurodevelopment”, they wrote.

Additional analysis revealed specific benefits for motor skills and mental developmental in the children for select omega-3 regimens.

“Omega-3 supplementation during either pregnancy or infancy improves child neurodevelopment,” they concluded.

Source: The FASEB Journal