Fish oil during pregnancy: does it make for smarter babies?

"Not as much as much as maintaining a healthy diet," said Dr. Catherine Herway, assistant director of Maternal/Fetal Medicine at NSLIJ-Staten Island University Hospital.

A new study in the May 7 issue of JAMA reports Omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) –found in fish oil- does not appear to improve cognitive outcomes for children – a long held belief for expected mothers.

DHA is believed to be linked with increased cognitive function (problem-solving, language abilities) in early childhood development.

Herway believes the study was conducted with controls in regards to the fish oil supplementation and other factors like smoking, but fell short in terms to the subjects overall diet.

"It's impossible to control someone's diet completely," explained Dr. Herway. "You can have someone who is eating very healthy, or someone who is eating fast foods everyday; so you're not going to have the same nutritional values as a baseline."

What's the best medicine?

"It is very appealing to say to a woman that if she takes a pill every day, her baby will become smarter. The reality is that despite all of our advancements in modern science, the best advice remains the same: to optimize maternal and fetal health, there remains no substitute for a well-balanced diet," said Dr. Herway.

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Christian Preston



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