Fish oil intake during pregnancy increases the weight of the children

Fish oil intake during pregnancy increases the weight of the children

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How does taking fish oil affect children during pregnancy?

Researchers have now found that if women consume fish oil during pregnancy, this leads to a higher body weight for children up to the age of six without increasing body fat.

In their current study, scientists at Copenhagen University found that taking fish oil during pregnancy increases the weight of the children born during the first six years of life. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "British Medical Journal" (BMJ).

Fish oil affects the development of fat cells during pregnancy

If pregnant women take fish oil supplements during the later stages of pregnancy, this leads to a higher body mass index (BMI) in the children. Even so, these children did not have a higher level of body fat compared to other children. Animal studies have already shown that supplementing fish oil with the diet during pregnancy affects the development of fat cells. While studies in humans have shown that pregnant women with an increased intake of fish oil give birth to children with higher birth weights, the impact on children in later life has so far been unclear. The results of the current study show that the children of women who take fish oil during pregnancy gain more weight in the first six years of life than other children.

Fatty acid chains are crucial for brain development

Diet during pregnancy and in infancy is an important determinant for the development and health of children, explains the study author Dr. Hans Bisgaard from Copenhagen University. Especially the intake of fish with n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) is important for adequate development, the expert adds. These fatty acid chains are critical to a baby's brain development, both in the womb and in the first few months of life while breastfeeding. However, the long-term effect on anthropometry or the way body proportions grow in childhood was uncertain, says Dr. Bisgaard. Researchers from the UK and Denmark therefore investigated the effects of fish oil supplements during pregnancy on the growth and body composition of children in later life.

736 women were examined in the study

The study included a total of 736 pregnant women who took either fish oil or olive oil daily from the 24th week of pregnancy to one week after birth. Height, weight, head and waist circumference were measured and assessed a total of eleven times, from before birth to six years of age. The results showed a sustained higher BMI between the ages of twelve months and six years. The children's body composition was assessed using so-called double-energy X-ray absorptiometry at the ages of 3.5 and six years. The scans showed that the higher BMI was not the result of a higher fat percentage, but a proportional increase in lean mass, bone mass and fat mass, suggesting that fish oil supplementation had a general growth stimulating effect.

Fish oil does not increase the risk of childhood obesity

At the age of six, the scans showed that children whose mothers had consumed fish oil during pregnancy had a 395 g higher total mass, a 280.7 g higher muscle mass, a 10.3 g higher bone mineral content and a 116.3 g had higher fat mass compared to the control group. Fish oil supplementation from the 24th week of pregnancy resulted in a higher BMI in children aged zero to six years, but not an increased risk of obesity by the age of six, the doctors add. (as)

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