A team supervised by Université Laval researchers Gina Muckle and Éric Dewailly have published a study in the Journal of Pediatrics that determined Omega-3 intake in the last months of pregnancy boosts an infant's sensory, cognitive, and motor development.
According to a press release, researchers measured docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid involved in the development of neurons and retinas, in the umbilical cord blood of 109 infants. The amount of DHA in the umbilical cord indicates how much DHA the baby was exposed to in the last three months of the pregnancy, which, according to Dr. Dewailly, is a crucial period for the development of retinal photoreceptors and neurons.
Follow-up tests on the infants at six and 11 months showed that the babies' visual acuity and their cognitive and motor development were closely linked to DHA concentration in the umbilical cord blood at the time of their birth. However, there did not seem to be a correlation between test results and DHA concentration in mothers' breast milk. These results highlight the crucial importance of prenatal exposure to omega-3s in a childs development, Dr. Muckle said.
The researchers said these results served as a reminder of the importance of a mothers diet in providing omega-3 fatty acids for the fetus. They said: A diet rich in omega-3s during pregnancy cant be expected to solve everything, but our results show that such a diet has positive effects on a childs sensory, cognitive, and motor development. Benefits from eating fish with low contaminant levels and high omega-3 contents, such as trout, salmon, and sardines, far outweigh potential risks even during pregnancy."
Pregnant women are advised not to eat fish known to have high mercury levels. For more information on fish that are safer to eat, check out the Environmental Defense's Seafood Selector. The FDA also provides advice on mercury in fish.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.