New Research Indicates Omega-3s Help Support Childhood Immunity and Brain Health
Extensive research clearly demonstrates that omega-3 fatty acids are essential to health, especially in children. Two recent studies indicate that maternal omega-3 supplementation influences infant microbiota and can positively support infant immunity and brain health.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology featured 109 pregnant or lactating women who were divided into two groups: women who took an omega-3 supplement and those who did not. The women in the supplemented group took the omega-3 supplements until the infants were six months old. Stool from the infants and breast milk from the mothers were evaluated. The researchers looked at IgA in the breast milk and evaluated the fecal bacteria composition of the infants to determine how the supplements impacted their gut microbiome.
Compared to the women who did not take the supplements, the breast milk of the women who took the supplements had less IgA, as well as a trend toward less pro-inflammatory cytokines. The researchers also concluded that the high EPA and DHA in the breast milk of the supplementing mothers positively influenced the gut microbiome of the infants.
Another 2018 study published in the Journal of Nutrition demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in mothers, preterm infants and term infants helped support psychomotor and visual development in the children. This study was a systematic review and meta-analysis that evaluated 38 different trials featuring 5,541 total participants. A small number of studies in this analysis also showed that omega-3 supplementation helped support cognitive function in the children. Although the number of studies in this analysis showing cognitive support was small, the results are consistent with a 2017 review of 16 randomized controlled trials conducted in various parts of the world including one from the United States that was published in the Journal of Lipids. In that review 13 of the 16 trials evaluated reported improvements in attention, visual learning, word reading and short-term memory in children who took omega-3 supplements. In four of the studies from that review, omega-3 fatty acids also positively supported erythrocyte levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are foundational supplements for both mother and child. This new research adds to the long list of studies confirming the important health-supporting actions of fish oil supplements especially in young children.
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