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Prenatal Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements May Cut Babies' Colds
Date:8/1/2011

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Aug. 1 (HealthDay News) -- When women take a supplement of the omega 3 fatty acid DHA during pregnancy, their babies have fewer cold symptoms and shorter illnesses, new research indicates.

At 1 month and 3 months of age, about 38 percent of babies exposed to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the womb experienced cold symptoms, compared to about 45 percent of the babies whose mothers were given a placebo supplement while they were pregnant.

"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," said study senior author Usha Ramakrishnan, an associate professor in the Hubert Department of Global Health at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta.

Ramakrishnan said it's probably too soon to recommend routine use of DHA supplements for pregnant women, because the findings weren't "dramatic." But, she added that the supplements did appear to be safe for pregnant women to take.

Results of the study will be published online on Aug. 1, and are scheduled to appear in the September issue of Pediatrics. The research was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the March of Dimes Foundation.

Omega 3 fatty acids are a class of nutrients considered essential for neural and retinal development during pregnancy. They 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.

Therefore, the current study looked at DHA supplements derived from algae. Ramakrishnan said there are no concerns about mercury contamination in DHA
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