In a new study, scientists find that fish oil supplement in the later stages of pregnancy is linked to an increase in total lean and bone mass at 6 years of age.
Previous research in animals has shown that supplementing the diet with fish oil during pregnancy affects the development of fat cells.
However, the impact on children later in life has been unclear.
In the current study, researchers based in Denmark and the UK set out to examine the effect of taking fish oil supplements during pregnancy on the growth and body composition of children later in life.
The study involved 736 pregnant women who received either n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) (fish oil) or olive oil (control) daily from week 24 of pregnancy week until one week after birth.
The team found that in women eating fish oil supplement, the children had a sustained higher BMI from 1 year to 6 years of age.
Further analysis showed that the higher BMI was not the result of a higher fat percentage, but reflected a proportional increase in lean mass, bone mass, and fat mass.
This suggests that the fish oil supplementation had a general growth stimulating effect.
At age 6, scans showed children whose mothers had taken fish oil supplements while pregnant had a 395g higher total mass, 280.7g higher lean mass, 10.3g higher bone mineral content and 116.3g higher fat mass compared with children of mothers who took the control oil.
The researchers conclude that the body composition at age 6 years in children given fish oil supplementation was characterized by a proportional increase in lean, bone, and fat mass suggesting a general growth stimulating effect.
The finding is published in The BMJ.