Premature birth is the leading cause of death for children under 5 years old worldwide, accounting for nearly one million deaths annually. Eating seafood or marine oils can significantly reduce that number.
The life saving ingredient? Omega 3 fatty acids.
That’s the main finding of a new Cochrane Review of 70 studies worldwide that included nearly 20,000 pregnant women. It showed that omega’s from marine sources reduces early premature birth by a whopping 42 percent.
“The effect really has to be strong to see it in a CR and I am very impressed that it has come out as significant as it has in this particular Review.”
Dr. Tom Brenna is a professor of pediatrics, chemistry and nutrition at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas.
Research on marine omega 3’s and pregnancy has been going on since at least 1992, he says. Brenna calls the formal medical collaboration and conclusions in the Cochran Review a ‘blunt instrument’ –
“The number of studies and the number of women studied is large enough so that it is very difficult to imagine that in future studies, no matter how they come out, are going to affect these results in the future. So we really are looking at something that may well be if not the final word, certainly good for a generation.”
The results also included a 10 percent reduction in low birth weight babies of under 5.5 pounds.
Premature babies are at higher risk of a range of long-term conditions including developmental delay, learning difficulties and visual impairment. Brenna says marine-based omega 3’s also improves those problems.
“Many of us believe that omega 3s, particularly the ones rich in DHA are important for continuing development of the neural system and of the eye. 8 The brain, the retina in the eye are really omega 3 organs. You can say as calcium is to the bones, omega 3 is to the brain.”
Additional studies also show that omega 3’s improve a mother’s mood in the long term.
Brenna says a challenge now is to translate the research findings on preventing premature births and other positives into health policy and wider educational outreach.
“ So I think that we have a major effect here that ought to be heralded from the rooftops far and wide.”