Prenatal DHA is used to improve neurodevelopment in offspring. However, there is limited literature to support or refute the benefits of these supplements. Previous studies showed no differences at 18 months and 4 years of age. This study by Gould et al. (JAMA, 2017) sought to determine if prenatal docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) affects a child’s cognitive functioning at 7 years of age.
Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT)
To explore the relationship between DHA, IQ and cognition, women were randomized to receive either 800 mg DHA daily, or to receive a placebo during the second half of their pregnancies. 543 children were included in the 7-year follow-up, with no significant differences demonstrated between the treatment and control groups with respect to IQ. Nor were there differences in direct measures of language, academic functioning, and executive functioning, although there was a slight increase in perceptual reasoning in the treatment arm. Children in the DHA group had slightly higher perceptual reasoning scores. The DHA group parents reported more behavioral problems as well as more executive dysfunction compared to the placebo group – findings that had also been seen at 4 year follow up. There were no differences in diagnosis of neurodevelopmental disorders between the groups. The authors conclude that these results do not support the use of prenatal DHA supplements to improve IQ or cognition offspring.
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