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Kudos! DHA supplements during pregnancy could save US healthcare system $6 billion

Stephen Daniells

pregnant - Credit Unsplash CC0 public domain.jpg

Universal supplementation with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) during the last two trimesters of pregnancy may save the US healthcare system billions of dollars, says a new study.


Once again, findings from a randomised controlled trial (RCT) have shown that significant public health cost savings could be achieved, even in the short-term, if all mothers-to be were supplemented with the long-chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA.

These findings, from a recent study carried out in Kansas, are fully consistent with those from the Australian DOMInO trial, the largest RCT to date of omega-3 supplementation in pregancy.  For details of estimated cost-savings generated by that study, see:

In both the US and Australian trials, omega-3 supplementation led to a significant reduction in early pre-term births, which are associated with increased hospital costs within the first year after birth.

Neither of the studies attempted to include estimates of longer-term cost savings, although prematurity is associated with higher risks for many conditions with lifelong negative impacts. This indicates that the estimated cost savings would be likely to be far higher than the current estimates.

See the associated research here:

30 June 2016 - Nutraingredients

The Kansas University DHA Outcomes Study (KUDOS) indicated that a daily 600 mg DHA supplement led to significant reductions in early preterm birth (ePTB), and this would result in significant hospital cost savings.

Data from 197 mothers and their infants indicated that DHA supplementation could result in cost savings of $1,678 per infant. Taking out the $166.48 cost of the DHA supplements for 26 weeks and a $26 increase in maternal care costs, the net saving became $1,484.

For the nearly 4 million live births in the US every year this cost saving would become almost $6 million, reported the researchers, led by Susan Carlson, PhD .

“The savings could be even higher…”

“The most recent ePTB rate in the US for all races is 2.75%, down from 2.96% in the years KUDOS was conducted,” they wrote in Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids (PLEFA) .

“Interestingly, if we assume this rate and the 58% reduction in ePTB by long chain omega-3 fatty acid supplementation observed in [a recent] meta-analysis [Kar et al. Eur. J. Obstet. Gynecol. Reprod. Biol. , (2016)], we come up with a potential savings of USD 6.15 billion for ePTB alone based on an estimated current cost of ePTB of USD 10.6 billion.

“The savings could be even higher if one considers subsequent long-term expenditures for special education services associated with disabling conditions common among premature infants.”


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:

What's astounding is that the enormous estimated savings or return on investment is limited to pregnancy outcomes.

“Imagine what the savings or return on investment would be if you considered the potential for EPA/DHA to decrease disability adjusted life years, a measure of overall disease burden, expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death.

"If that doesn't get the attention of policymakers, what will?”

Australian data

The new study follows hot on the heels of a report by Australian researchers using data from the "DHA to Optimize Mother and Infant Outcome" (DOMInO) trial indicated that DHA supplementation was associated with 15% lower rates of pre-term births, and that would translate into annual costs savings to the Australian public hospital system of AUS$15-51 million (US$11-37 million).

“We agree with our Australian colleagues who conducted the DOMInO trial and cost analysis that a public health policy to increase DHA intake during pregnancy could result in significant cost savings to the health care system in our country,” wrote the Kansas University researchers.