Protect your unborn from catching cold by taking omega acids early


Protect your unborn from catching cold by taking omega acids early

Taking Omega 3 supplements have been proven to lessen cold symptoms and shorten illnesses in babies whose mothers took them during pregnancy. Almost 40% of babies exposed to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the womb experienced cold symptoms, compared to about 45% of the babies whose mothers were given a placebo supplement while they were pregnant.

Usha Ramakrishnan, an associate professor in the Hubert Department of Global Health at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta says:

"The data suggested that for most of the symptoms we looked at, duration of symptoms was less when mothers received DHA. And, in the case of colds, the probability of a cold was slightly less. The effects seemed to be strongest early on after birth. It's probably too soon to recommend routine use of DHA supplements for pregnant women, because the findings weren't dramatic, but the supplements did appear to be safe for pregnant women to take."

More than 800 Mexican women were included in the study and half were randomly selected to be in the treatment group while the other half received a daily placebo pill. The treatment group received 400 milligrams of DHA each day, beginning when they were between 18 and 22 weeks pregnant. Treatment continued at least until the birth of the baby.

The babies were assessed at 1, 3 and 6 months of age, and the mothers completed questionnaires about their babies' health. To aid their recall, the mothers were also asked to keep a diary, recording any illness symptoms.

Babies in the DHA group had a 24 percent drop in the odds of having a combination of cold symptoms at 1 month compared to babies whose mothers were given a placebo. Also at 1 month, babies whose mothers had gotten the DHA supplement had 26 percent shorter duration of cough, 15 percent less time with phlegm and 30 percent shorter duration of wheezing.

At 3 months, babies in the DHA group were also sick 14 percent less time. And, at 6 months, the babies whose mothers had DHA had shorter duration of fever, runny nose and breathing problems.

Omega 3 fatty acids are often obtained through diet by eating fish. But, concerns about mercury contamination in fish have led to recommendations that advise pregnant women to limit their fish consumption. Pregnant women are also advised to avoid certain fish, such as swordfish, altogether. A good alternative can be found in algae, where there are no concerns about mercury contamination.

Dr. Jennifer Wu, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City added:

"We've been recommending DHA intake in pregnant women for brain and nervous system development, and this study suggests another good reason to take DHA. Start prenatal vitamins and DHA supplements about three months before pregnancy and then continue them throughout the pregnancy. If you're not taking them ahead of time, you may miss out on proper nutrition."

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Section Issues On Medicine: Medical practice