Fish oil in pregnancy may improve toddler hand coordination

February 1, 2007

Children born to women who take fish oil supplements during late pregnancy have better eye/hand coordination at age 2 to 3 years than their counterparts whose mothers did not take the supplements, according to a study published online Dec. 21 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood-Fetal and Neonatal Edition.

Children born to women who take fish oil supplements during late pregnancy have better eye/hand coordination at age 2 to 3 years than their counterparts whose mothers did not take the supplements, according to a study published online Dec. 21 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood-Fetal and Neonatal Edition.

Janet A. Dunstan, MD, of the University of Western Australia in Perth, and colleagues randomized
98 pregnant women to take about 4 g of n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (about the amount in
one fatty fish meal per day) or 4 g of olive oil per day from 20 weeks' gestation until birth. Researchers used standard measures to assess infant growth and cognitive development when the children turned age 2.5 years.

Children whose mothers took fish oil supplements scored significantly higher for eye/hand coordination than children whose mothers took olive oil supplements (mean score of 114 vs. 108, respectively). There were no significant differences in tests of receptive language, average phrase length and vocabulary. The fish oil supplements seemed safe in light of concerns about mercury toxicity.

Dunstan JA, Simmer K, Dixon G, et al. Cognitive assessment at 2½ years following fish oil supplementation in pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. Published Online First: 21 December 2006. doi:10.1136/adc.2006.099085.