More than 800 Mexican women were included in the study. 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.
Ramakrishnan said Mexican women tend to be deficient in DHA, much like many American women are.
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.
At times, however, babies in the DHA group experienced longer duration of rashes and vomiting, the study authors noted.
Ramakrishnan said that it's likely that DHA boosts infants' immune response.
Dr. Jennifer Wu, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said, "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."
Wu recommended that women who are thinking about becoming pregnant should "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 nutri
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