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Health & Nutrition

Maternal Supplementation With Very-Long Chain n-3 Fatty Acids During Pregnancy and Lactation Augments Children’s IQ at Four Years of Age

Source: Pediatrics
Vol. 111, No. 1, January 2003, pp. e39-e44
Ingrid B. Helland, MD, Lars Smith, PhD, Kristin Saarem, PhD, Ola D. Saugstad, MD, PhD, and Christian A. Drevon, MD, PhD


  1. Docosahexanoic acid (DHA; 22:6 n-3) and arachidonic acid (AA; 20:4 n-6) are critical for development of the central nervous system.
  2. The growth spurt in the human brain during the last trimester of pregnancy and the first postnatal months require a large increase in AA and DHA.
  3. The fetus and the newborn infant depend on maternal supply of DHA and AA.
  4. The ability of the fetus and the newborn to convert vegetarian plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, also known as short-chain omega-3s, like flax seed oil (alpha-linolenic acid (18:3 n-3)) to EPA and DHA is inadequate.
  5. Therefore, maternal very long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) status (20 carbon long EPA and 22 carbon long DHA) during pregnancy is critical for fetal brain development.
  6. Formulas rarely contain adequate concentrations of the long-chain PUFAs.
  7. A child’s mental processing and mental development scores and intelligence at age 4 are significantly correlated with maternal intake of DHA and EPA during pregnancy.

Credit given to Dan Murphy, DC for this review.