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Omega-3 supplementation in pregnancy and infancy: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Shulkin ML, Pimpin L, Bellinger D, Krnz S, Duggan C, Fawzi W, Mozaffarian D. 2016. Effects of omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy and youth on neurodevelopment and cognition in childhood: a systematic review and meta-analysis. FASEB J 30(1):295.5s.

Development during pregnancy and early infancy are known to be a critical time for neurodevelopment of the child. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are thought to be crucial for optimal neurodevelopment in early life. Accordingly, the authors of the current article aimed to investigate the effect of omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy and infancy on child cognitive and developmental outcomes with findings presented at the recent Experimental Biology 2016 meeting.

Authors searched Pubmed, EMBASE, Cochrane library and PyschInfo for randomised controlled trials of omega-3 supplementation for greater than three months' duration, and quantitative measure of neurodevelopment or cognition. Omega-3 supplementation included docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). No restrictions were placed on language or date of publication. The primary outcome measured was standardised mean difference in Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID) score between intervention groups in the trials. The BSID is an internationally recognised tool used to assess developing function in infants and toddlers. Other outcomes assessed included a variety of intelligence scales, a vocabulary test, and other standardised measures.

Of 571 abstracts identified, a total of 15 trials with 20 intervention arms were reviewed and analysed. The trials included 2,525 children and used either DHA + EPA (n=6 intervention arms), DHA only (n=2), DHA + arachadonic acid (AA) (n=100), or DHA + EPA + AA (n=2), and commenced either prenatally (mean 20 weeks gestation) or within the first few days of birth. The mean supplementation duration was 7.3 months with mean age at outcome assessment being 16 months. Doses used in the studies were not reported.

In an analysis of pooled results, both maternal supplementation and infant supplementation were reported to result in similarly improved neurodevelopment, with standardised mean difference in BSID being 0.21 (95% CI: 0.01-0.41) and 0.24 (95% CI: 0.00-0.48), respectively. Differences in effect in the BSID subscales were reported with DHA and/or EPA associated with increased psychomotor development index, and DHA + AA associated with increased mental development index. Authors concluded the omega-3 supplementation during with pregnancy or early infancy improves neurodevelopment of the child, supporting the importance of sufficient polyunsaturated fatty acid intake by pregnant women and young children.

It is important to note that this is an abstract from a scientific meeting and no full text article was associated with this publication, limiting critical analysis and interpretation of the study. Whilst the early reporting of trial presentation appears promising, a more thorough understanding will be possible with publication of the full results.

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Author:Tester, Jodie
Publication:Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Sep 1, 2016
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