Taking prenatal fish oil may fend off colds in infancy

By Shayna Brouker • Published: October 7th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Moms of toddlers know all too well the joys of caring for a little one suffering from a cold. A runny nose, raspy cough and fussy mood is no fun for mom or kids. But what if moms-to-be could ward off the woes of a cold before baby is even born?

A new study from the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health shows that pregnant women who get plenty of omega-three fatty acids in their diet, either from supplements or natural sources, might help strengthen their child’s immune system in the womb. Researchers found that month-old infants whose moms took a supplement of four-hundred milligrams of the omega-3 fatty acid D-H-A, which is found in fish oil, suffered fewer days with cold symptoms during their first six months of life than those whose mothers took only a placebo.

What’s more, newborns whose moms took DHA were also a little less likely to come down with a cold in the first place. Their symptoms didn’t stick around as long, either. Curiously, the only catch was that babies exposed to fish oil in the womb also got more rashes and vomited more than infants in the control group.

More research is needed to determine exactly how a mother’s diet affects the strength of her baby’s immune system long-term. And it’s too soon for pediatricians to encourage pregnant women to add fish oil to their regimen. But two hundred milligrams of DHA is a safe amount for moms to take, and offers a bevy of benefits otherwise. Fish oil has been shown to reduce inflammation, discourage depression and prevent heart disease.

Short of keeping baby inside and away from people, it’s hard to prevent your little one from catching a cold. But taking a DHA supplement during pregnancy might just help baby sidestep cold season — and give your own health a boost, too.