Women who take fish oil supplements during pregnancy may enhance the hand-eye coordination of their children, according to a small study conducted in Perth, Australia.
In the study, 83 pregnant women took either 4 grams of fish oil or olive oil supplements daily from the 20th week of pregnancy until the birth of their child.
Dr. Susan L. Prescott from the University of Western Australia and colleagues note in the Archives of Disease in Childhood that only pregnant women who did not routinely eat more than two servings of fish per week were included in their study.
In tests of hand-eye coordination performed at age 2-1/2, kids whose mothers had taken fish oil achieved significantly higher hand-eye coordination scores than kids whose mothers had taken olive oil, researchers found.
This held true even after adjusting for other factors that may influence the results, such as the age of the mother and length of breastfeeding.
In all 72 children were assessed (33 in the fish oil group and 39 in the olive oil control group). The 33 kids whose mothers took fish oil also performed better on tests of comprehension, average phrase length, and vocabulary, than the 39 kids in the olive oil group. There were no overall differences in language skills and growth between the two groups.
Fish oil supplements are becoming increasingly popular with the general public and among pregnant women, the investigators note, perhaps because of rising concern over high levels of potentially harmful mercury in fresh water fish.
The current study, they conclude, hints that supplementation with a “relatively high dose” of fish oil during the second half of pregnancy is safe for the fetus and infant, and may have potentially beneficial effects on the child’s eye and hand coordination that “need to be explored further.”
SOURCE: Archives of Diseases of Childhood (Fetal and Neonatal Edition) Online First, December 21, 2006.
Revision date: July 7, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD