A new study has found that pregnant women who take docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplements during pregnancy have babies who are better able to fend off colds and other viruses than babies whose mothers did not take the supplements. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the March of Dimes Foundation, and was published in the September 2011 issue of the journal Pediatrics. As Boston.com reports:
[The study followed] 851 pregnant women in Mexico, about half of whom were randomly selected to receive daily DHA supplements of 400 milligrams starting no more than 22 weeks into the pregnancy. The rest received a placebo.
The researchers found that infants whose mothers took the supplement had fewer cold symptoms, including cough, phlegm, and wheezing, in their first month. At three months, these infants spent 14 percent less time ill. And after six months, the duration of various symptoms, including difficulty breathing and fever, was less. Duration of some symptoms, including rash within the first month, increased among the supplement group.
The authors suggested that DHA intake could help infants fight off infections that, in many places, contribute to childhood deaths.
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid found in many ocean fish and available in the form of fish oil supplement capsules.