In this day and age, a lot of people make the wrongheaded assumption that premature birth is no big deal. This isn't the case. When children are born before a pregnancy reaches full term, they are usually beset with all manner of physical complications that can impact their early development. The effects can even linger for the rest of a child's life.
In addition to major physical detriments like underdeveloped digestive systems, and lungs, premature birth can also severely hamper brain development. But a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) claims that the use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements can improve the cognitive performance of kids who were born as preemies.
Researchers from Australia's Adelaide Women's and Children's Hospital found that administering over-the-counter fish oil supplements to boost omega-3 levels helped premature baby girls score better on cognitive tests at 18 months of age. This benefit was not seen in premature boys, but the researchers believe that's because boys and girls have differing rates of development.
Study leader Maria Makrides had 272 nursing mothers of premature children take six omega-3 supplement pills a day. This was meant to replicate the amount of omega-3 that full-term babies usually receive in the womb during the third trimester of pregnancy. Eighteen months later, they found that female babies of moms taking the placebo scored slightly lower than the moms taking the omega-3s.
Of course, some doctors claim that the true test of this study's results are not a matter of months, but years. "While an 18-month follow up is okay, an eight-year follow up is going to be much better," says to Dr. David Adamkin, director of neonatal medicine at the University of Louisville. "We need more time to see if these differences are really going to persist."
But while that may be true, I think it's too bad that doctors like Adamkin wouldn't take this opportunity to get moms to start popping more fish oil pills. The benefits of the omega-3s to your heart, arteries, brain, and digestive system are simply too numerous to name. And since moms are routinely told to steer clear of eating omega-3 rich fish and seafood during pregnancy, why not encourage them to take more supplements? DR.D.
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