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Potential Adverse Effects of Fish Oil Supplementation During Pregnancy on Child's Growth and Metabolic Health at Age 10

Effects of Fish Oil Supplementation During Pregnancy
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Written by Andrew Le, MD.
Medically reviewed by
Clinical Physician Assistant, Summit Health
Last updated May 26, 2024

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A groundbreaking study originating from the Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood has shed new light on the impact of fish oil supplementation during pregnancy on children's growth and metabolic health. Published in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," this research delves into the long-term effects observed in children at the age of ten.

Background: Traditionally, omega-3 fatty acids obtained from fish oil have been deemed beneficial for both expectant mothers and their offspring. Initial findings suggested that fish oil could contribute to healthier metabolic profiles and lower BMI in children.

Objectives: The Danish research team aimed to explore the follow-up data when the children reached ten years old, examining a comprehensive range of metabolic health markers to uncover any enduring implications of maternal fish oil supplementation.

Methods: The study was a continuation of a randomized clinical trial involving 736 pregnant women, beginning from the 24th week of pregnancy until one week after birth. The children, now at the age of ten, underwent thorough assessments including BMI calculations, body composition analysis, blood pressure measurements, and blood sample evaluations to determine cholesterol, glucose, and C-peptide levels. A metabolic syndrome score was also compiled to provide a holistic view of each child's health status.

Key Findings: The children whose mothers had received fish oil supplements showed an increase in average BMI when compared to those in the control group. They also displayed a heightened probability of being overweight, coupled with a trend towards increased body fat percentage and a marginally higher metabolic syndrome score.

Conclusions: These observations point towards potential risks associated with fish oil supplementation during pregnancy, which may lead to increased BMI and a predisposition towards being overweight, as well as possible alterations in metabolic health as the child ages. The study emphasizes the necessity for further investigation to confirm these findings and to understand the underlying mechanisms involved.

The study's comprehensive nature and the high retention rate of participants enhance the credibility of its conclusions. It prompts a cautious approach to omega-3 fatty acid supplementation during pregnancy and suggests that further research is warranted to solidify our understanding of its long-term effects on children's growth and health.

For more information, the detailed study is accessible at https://ajcn.nutrition.org, where the original research article can be found.

This research was carried out with the support of Buoy Health.

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Clinical Physician Assistant, Summit Health
Jeff brings to Buoy 20 years of clinical experience as a physician assistant in urgent care and internal medicine. He also has extensive experience in healthcare administration, most recently as developer and director of an urgent care center. While completing his doctorate in Health Sciences at A.T. Still University, Jeff studied population health, healthcare systems, and evidence-based medicine....
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References

Vinding, R. K., Sevelsted, A., Horner, D., Vahman, N., Lauritzen, L., Hagen, C. P., Chawes, B., Stokholm, J., & Bønnelykke, K. (2024). Fish oil supplementation during pregnancy, anthropometrics, and metabolic health at age ten: A randomized clinical trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 119(5), 960-968. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajcnut.2023.12.015