Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Maternal, Fetal, Infant and Child Wellbeing

Ellen Mozurkewich; Deborah R Berman; Julie Chilimigras


Expert Rev of Obstet Gynecol. 2010;5(1):125-138. 

In This Article

Five-year View

One of the most exciting areas of clinical investigation concerns the potential neuroprotective effects of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA. Epidemiologic studies suggest that adults who consume greater amounts of fish and seafood may be at reduced risk for Alzheimer's disease, and intervention trials of fatty acid supplementation for prevention or treatment of this disease are ongoing.[102,103] Likewise, epidemiologic evidence suggests that maternal diets rich in fish are associated with reduced risk for cerebral palsy, while diets rich in meat are associated with increased risk.[104] We are currently undertaking investigations in rodent models aimed at the study of the neuroprotective effects of DHA in hypoxia–ischemia and activation of the systemic inflammatory response.[105] The question of whether omega-3 fatty acids might prevent or attenuate acquired brain injury in the perinatal period is under investigation. Trials are also needed to determine whether prenatal omega-3 fatty acid supplementation can reduce the risk of attention and behavioral disorders in children born to families with high genetic risk.

We know that omega-3 fatty acids participate in diverse biologic processes deemed beneficial to health, most significantly with respect to immune function regulation and inflammatory processes. We also know that significant changes in dietary patterns in industrialized nations during the past several centuries have resulted in a reduction in intake of omega-3 fats and an increase in omega-6 fats, total fat, saturated fat and linoleic acid. This raises health concerns for the population overall and certainly for pregnant women, fetuses and children. Research that clarifies the benefits and risks of omega-3 supplementation and dietary fish consumption can contribute to a better understanding of the importance of its intake in pregnancy; consistent, appropriate recommendations for pregnant women and, potentially, improved pregnancy and fetal outcomes, and outcomes for children.


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