Prenatal DHA Supplementation Does Not Enhance Offspring's IQ

March 21, 2017

Prenatal DHA Supplementation Does Not Enhance Offspring's IQ

  1. F. Bruder Stapleton, MD

At age 7 years, children whose mothers received docosahexaenoic acid during the last half of pregnancy did not have higher IQ, academic ability, or executive functioning than controls.

  1. F. Bruder Stapleton, MD

Prenatal docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation has been postulated to enhance fetal neurodevelopment because DHA is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in the human brain. An Australian study showed no motor or intellectual differences at ages 18 months or 4 years between children whose mothers were randomized to take 800 mg of DHA daily in the last half of pregnancy and those whose mothers were randomized to placebo (NEJM JW Psychiatry and JAMA 2010; 304:1675 and NEJM JW Womens Health and JAMA 2014; 311:1802). In this follow-up study, researchers report findings at age 7 years in 259 children exposed to DHA in utero and 284 controls.

Mean IQ did not differ significantly between the DHA and control groups (98.31 and 97.32). Executive functioning, academic ability, and language development also were not statistically different between the two groups. Parents of children in the DHA group reported more behavior problems than those in the control group; a similar observation had been noted at age 4 years. However, there was no significant difference in diagnosis of neurodevelopmental disorders between groups.

Comment

This study convincingly shows that DHA supplementation during the last half of pregnancy does not enhance cognition or neurodevelopment in offspring. It is interesting that parents reported more behavior problems in children exposed to gestational DHA supplementation, both at age 4 and 7 years. This finding warrants further study.

Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication

  • Disclosures for F. Bruder Stapleton, MD at time of publication Editorial boards UpToDate Leadership positions in professional societies American Society of Pediatric Nephrology Foundation (Chair)

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