The use of fish oil supplements later on in pregnancy could have an impact on a child’s growth (namely their body mass index (BMI)) in the first six years of their lives.
Researchers in Denmark studied 736 expectant mothers for this study. The women either took fish oil or olive oil supplements starting in their 24th week of pregnancy. The group taking olive oil pills was the control group.
After the women gave birth, researchers checked in on the children from birth until they reached the age of 6. The kids of the mothers who took the fish oil supplements while they were pregnant had a higher BMI through 6 years of age. Normally, we think of a high BMI as a bad thing, but in the case of these children, the high BMI was due to higher percentages of lean muscle and bone mass, according to the data. They were not at an increased risk of obesity. The data showed that they had 280.7g higher lean mass and 10.3g higher bone mineral content compared to the children whose mothers were in the control group. Remember, that was the group taking the olive oil pills.
BMI is not a perfect nor a direct measure of body fat, even though it can be used to predict future health problems. Doctors use the term BMI to express excesses of body fat, and it is true that having a higher BMI value means there is an increase in the risk of having future health problems.
Despite these results, more research is still needed because this study only showed that there is a correlation between the fish oil supplements and healthier growth in children. It did not prove a causal relationship between the fish oil supplements and growth.
It’s a good place to start, however, because fish intake can be very important during pregnancy when done safely. Certain fish are off limits because of their mercury levels, but fish can be a great source of protein and it has other nutrients which are good for a baby’s developing brain.
But, whether you want to take a supplement or incorporate fish into your diet before giving birth, it’s always a good idea to ask your doctor first.