Women who take DHA fish oil supplements during pregnancy may boost their babies’ immune systems and help protect against colds during the first months of life, a new study shows.
Infants whose mothers were given DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil, got sick less often and for shorter periods of time than babies whose mothers got none.
The difference wasn’t huge between the moms who took the supplements starting in the second trimester and those who didn’t, but it was significant. For instance, 1-month-old infants who did catch colds spent a full day less coughing, being congested and sniffling if their moms had taken DHA.
Usha Ramakrishnan, a researcher in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, and her colleagues followed 851 Mexican women from the second trimester of pregnancy, through the babies’ births, and until the infants were six months old. About half of the women were given 400 milligrams of DHA each day starting in the second trimester. The rest of the women were given placebos.
At one month, babies whose mothers took DHA experienced shorter periods of respiratory symptoms when they got sick.