Magazine article Science News

Can Fish Oil Prolong Pregnancy?

Magazine article Science News

Can Fish Oil Prolong Pregnancy?

Article excerpt

Fish-oil capsules taken during the third trimester of pregnancy may extend gestation, according to a new study. If scientists confirm that preliminary finding, doctors may one day prescribe fish-oil supplements or recommend a fish-rich diet for pregnant women at risk of delivering a premature baby.

Epidemiologist Sjurdur F. Olsen at the University of Aarhus in Denmark and his colleagues began their experiment with the knowledge that women living in the harsh Faroe Islands -- a group of Danish islands in the North Atlantic -- experience longer-than-average preganancies. The team speculated that the islanders' diet, which includes a lot of fish, plays a role in extending gestation by several days. Olsen thinks the omega-3 fatty acids in fish may influence the onset of labor.

To test that theory, the team recruited 533 healthy Danish women in their third trimester. They randomly assigned 266 of them to a treatment group that received daily capsules containing omega-3 fatty acids. A control group of 136 women got daily capsules containing olive oil. The remaining 131 women served as a second control group and received no capsules.

Pregnancies in the fish-oil group lasted an average of four days longer than those in the olive-oil group, the researchers found. Fish-oil babies also averaged about 107 grams heavier than their olive-oil peers. Olsen says fish-oil babies put on the weight simply because they stayed in the womb longer.

Pregnancies in the control group that got no capsules lasted about 2.4 days longer than those in the olive-oil group. Olsen says women in the no-treatment group may have been adding fish to their diet during the study because of the perceived health benefit of a fishy diet. By contrast, the olive-oil group didn't know whether their capsule contained fish or olive oil and thus were less likely to boost their fish consumption. …

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