Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can help prevent early preterm birth

docosahexaenoic acid DHA

Nowadays many people take nutritional supplements to add further nutritional value to the diet.

In a recent study, researchers find that these dietary supplements can help prevent thousands of early preterm births. The finding is published in Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids.

The study was led by University of Kansas Medical Center and South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute in University of Adelaide.

Researchers analyzed two national clinical studies: one is in the U.S. and the other one is in Australia. They found that if pregnant women took daily docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplements, early preterm births (< 34 weeks’ gestation) could be strongly reduced.

Infants born very preterm often require lifesaving treatments and longer hospitalizations at birth and are at increased risk for additional hospitalizations in the first year of life.

Furthermore, these infants are at risk for serious disability or death the earlier they are born.

One effective way to reduce risk of early preterm births is docosahexaenoic acid. It occurs naturally in cell membranes with the highest levels in brain cells, but the levels can be increased by diet or supplements.

An infant obtains docosahexaenoic acid from his or her mother in utero and postnatally from human milk, but the amount received depends upon the mother’s DHA status.

U.S. women typically consume less docosahexaenoic acid than women in most of the developed world. The intake of DHA in both the U.S. and Australia is well below that reported by Japanese women.

Researchers estimated that more than 106,000 high-risk early preterm births can be avoided in the U.S. and about 1,100 can be prevented in Australia each year if pregnant women take daily supplements of the omega fatty acid.

The research is supported by the Eunice Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in the US and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council.

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Citation: Yelland LN, et al. (2016). Predicting the effect of maternal docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation to reduce early preterm birth in Australia and the United States using results of within country randomized controlled trials. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 112: 44-49. DOI:
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