Data loading...

Study Suggests Omega-3 In Breast Milk Reduces Risk Of Developmental Disorders Among Babies

The results of a six year study conducted by researchers at Adelaide University in Australia suggests that supplementing breast milk with omega-3 fatty acids can aid mental development and reduce the risk of developmental disorders in premature infants.

According to the study, which was published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, infants born before 33 weeks’ gestation do not sufficiently produce an omega-3 fatty acid in the brain, known as Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a finding that could leave them susceptible to developmental disorders.

For the study, the researchers analyzed the health outcomes of 657 premature infants weighing less than 1250 grams, or about a third of a full-term baby's weight. As part of the study, the lactating mothers of a select number of a number of the infants were given doses of 1,000 mg of DHA per day in the form of tuna oil capsules. Infants in the intervention group who were not breast-fed were instead given formula with additional DHA levels.

According to the data, approximately 50% fewer infants given high-DHA diets experienced significantly delayed mental development when compared with infants fed a low DHA diet. The effects of the DHA were most pronounced among infant girls, a finding that the researchers suggest could be attributable to the slightly higher metabolic rate of infant boys. Given that premature infant boys have a higher rate of developmental disorders than their female peers, the researchers call for further research to address the findings.

This finding is the latest in a growing body of research suggesting that omega 3 fatty acids can convey a number of health benefits. For example, consumption of omega 3s has been associated with the healthy development and preservation of neurological pathways, promote brain health, control blood clotting mechanisms and offer a protective benefit against heart disease and perhaps even strokes. The only drawback? Our bodies aren’t actually capable of producing omega 3s, so it is essential that these compounds are introduced either through the diet – think lots of fish, nuts and tofu – or through the addition of a dietary supplement.