A report published online on August 1, 2011 in the journal Pediatrics reveals the finding of researchers from Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and the Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública in Cuernavaca, Mexico of a protective effect for supplemental docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) against colds in infants when administered to their mothers during pregnancy. Docosahexaenoic acid is a long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid that has been shown to improve immune function as well as provide numerous other health benefits.
In a randomized trial, 1,100 pregnant women residing in Mexico were given 400 milligrams of DHA derived from algae or a placebo from the 18th to 22 week of gestation until the birth of their infants. The occurrence of illness symptoms were reported by caregivers when the infants were one, three and six months of age.
At one month of age, combined cold symptoms were 24 percent lower among infants whose mothers received DHA than in those mothers who did not receive it. The incidence of cough, phlegm and wheezing was reduced by 26 percent, 15 percent and 30 percent in the DHA group. At three months of age, children born to mothers who received DHA spent 14 percent less time ill, and at six months, the group had a shorter duration of fever, nasal secretions, breathing difficulties, rash and other illness.
"This is a large scale, robust study that underscores the importance of good nutrition during pregnancy," commented lead researcher Usha Ramakrishnan, PhD, who is an associate professor at the Hubert Department of Global Health at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health. "Our findings indicate that pregnant women taking 400 mg of DHA are more likely to deliver healthier infants."
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