Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
A new review of the scientific study of the effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplements on babies’ brain development shows that the supplements are not necessarily beneficial, according to an article published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Reuters reports:
“There are so many trials where pregnant women are supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids and they’ve all got different results,” said lead study author Jacqueline Gould, a researcher at the Women’s and Children’s Health Research Institute in Adelaide, Australia. “We found that there was neither a positive nor a negative effect on visual or neurological outcomes.”
The Australian team, who published their findings in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analyzed data from 11 clinical trials with a total of 5,272 participants who were randomly assigned to take omega-3 supplements or placebos during the last half of their pregnancies.
Across the trials, the amount of omega-3 taken by the mothers ranged from 240 to 3,300 milligrams per day. And the ages at which children’s brain and vision development were assessed ranged from newborn to 7 years old.
According to the researchers, most of the clinical trials included too few participants to distinguish subtle differences expected from nutritional studies, excluded complicated pregnancies (in which greater differences might have been seen) and didn’t follow the children long enough during development.
“Our analysis highlights that more research is needed,” Gould told Reuters Health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for healthy fetal brain development and are commonly found in fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel and sardines. Human brains and eyes contain large amounts of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), both forms of omega-3.
Developing fetuses can get DHA from their mothers’ fat stores, and from food and supplements they consume during pregnancy.
Image: Omega 3 supplements, via Shutterstock
Thursday, October 11th, 2012
The levels of mercury in a pregnant woman’s bloodstream has been linked to a higher risk of her child being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by a new study conducted by researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health. The Boston Globe reports that children whose mothers tested high for mercury were 40-70 percent more likely to exhibit ADHD symptoms by age eight:
On the flip side, those children whose mothers consumed the most fish while pregnant were the least likely to exhibit fidgety, distracted, and impulsive behaviors in class, according to the study of 604 children published Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
At first blush, this finding appears contradictory because most of the mercury we consume comes from fish. “It seems a little paradoxical,” said study co-author Dr. Susan Korrick, an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s. “But fish consumption doesn’t necessarily correlate with mercury levels since you could eat a high amount of fish that are low in mercury.”
Fatty kinds of fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to be crucial for cognitive function. All types of fish have a host of nutrients such as vitamin D, B-12, and iodine, which could play a role in brain development as well.
While government agencies have advised pregnant women to limit their fish intake to no more than two six-ounce servings a week, Korrick said they might want to aim for three or four servings of low-mercury fish such as salmon, canned light tuna, haddock, cod, and shrimp. (Albacore tuna has more mercury, so consumption should be limited to six ounces a week.)
The key is for pregnant women to avoid fish known to have high mercury levels, including swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel, Korrick added.
Image: Salmon, via Shutterstock
Thursday, August 16th, 2012
The children’s vitamin manufacturer NBTY and two of its subsidiaries, Rexall Sundown and NatureSmart are offering refunds to customers after the Federal Trade Commission discovered that the vitamins contain far less of the omega-3 DHA than the package claims. From CNN:
The vitamins’ packaging featured Disney princesses, Winnie the Pooh, Nemo and Spider-Man. Manufacturer NBTY and two of its subsidiaries, Rexall Sundown and NatureSmart, claimed in product advertising and on packaging that the vitamins contained a dose of DHA that would satisfy 100% of a child’s daily requirement.
But in some cases the vitamins contained only minuscule amounts of DHA, the Federal Trade Commission said.
The amount of DHA — an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish — in Disney and Marvel Complete Tablets equaled only one-thousandth of what the marketers claimed per serving for children age 4 and older.
For smaller children, the discrepancy was even more significant. Only five-10-thousandths of what the company claimed the pills contained on the packaging was in a serving of Disney and Marvel Complete tablets for children ages 2 to 4, court documents filed by the FTC alleged.
The packaging claimed the DHA the vitamins contained would help vision and brain development in children. The FTC said those claims were unsupported.
Sold at CVS Pharmacy, Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreens, Kroger, Kmart, Meijer and Rite Aid, as well as online, the boxes were priced at between $4 and $8 each.
Parents who believe they may have purchased the vitamins dating back to between May 1, 2008, and September 30, 2010, can file a claim through the FTC’s website, anytime before October 12.
Image: Girl taking vitamins, via Shutterstock