Put Wellness Within Reach

Fish oil supplementation during pregnancy boosts brain function in 10-year-olds, says study

Children born to mothers who took fish oil during pregnancy have been found to have faster problem-solving skills and greater attention focus, according to a new study. Speaking to NutritionInsight, Cristina Campoy, medical doctor and professor of pediatrics at the University of Granada, explains the details of the study.She notes that it is the first study to examine the long-term effects of maternal supplementation with fish oil and 5-MTHF (folic acid) on the resting state network (RSN) functioning – the “resting” brain activity when a person is not engaged in a cognitive or active task – of children.“The differences found between Fish Oil (FO) and No-FO groups in brain functionality are simply amazing,” she adds.Recommending supplementationClick to EnlargeThe quality of maternal nutrition during pregnancy has a long-term effect on the brain function of school-aged children.The team found that children born to mothers who did not take FO supplements performed poorly regarding speed processing and attention tests. These are associated with stronger functional connectivity in frontoparietal and sensorimotor networks.Campoy reveals that the results suggest that all pregnant women should receive adequate levels of LC-PUFAs or FO supplementation to guarantee an optimal cognitive development in the offspring.She proposes that folic acid could be given as already recommended (before pregnancy and during the first trimester of pregnancy) and LC-PUFAs could be given in the second half of pregnancy and during lactation.“Women at risk of deficiency of these nutrients should be identified,” she explains.“It will be very interesting to analyze in future studies if folic acid and LC-PUFAs supplements should be given separately at different moments during pregnancy.”A ten-year follow-upResearchers followed up on 57 children whose mothers received 500 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and 150 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) fish oils per day, either with or without 400 mg of 5-MTHF (folic acid), folic acid alone, or placebo, during the second half of their pregnancies.At the age of ten, the children were evaluated using rs-MRI brain scanning to measure RSN and neuropsychological tests. The results of each group were then compared to see if there were any differences.The results of this study indicate that early nutrition during pregnancy can have a significant impact on brain development in children, with the potential to enhance cognitive performance.“Furthermore, the present study suggests that folic acid and LC-PUFAs supplements should be given separately at different moments during pregnancy.”Click to EnlargeFish oil nutritional breakdown.Prepping for pregnancyFurther studies in obese and diabetic mothers are also needed and of interest, Campoy further notes. “The expected results from these studies will change the current policies and recommendations regarding the use of multivitamin-containing LC-PUFAs and folic acid, into a more individualized way.”“There is no clear or robust evidence to support the use of multivitamin-containing folic acid supplementation during pregnancy on mental performance later in life,” Campoy reveals.“More studies are needed to understand the mechanism involved in the LC-PUFAs and folic acid effects on the functional brain connectivity,” she adds.Previously, research in the US found that women who got a higher amount of DHA had fewer early preterm births overall. Participants with low DHA levels at enrolment, on the other hand, had half the rate of premature preterm delivery.

Reference : Nutrition Insight