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Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jun;83(6):1337-44.

Effect of n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation of women with low-risk pregnancies on pregnancy outcomes and growth measures at birth: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.

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  • 1Department of Paediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, The Medical University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland.



It is hypothesized that the intake of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) throughout pregnancy is important to maternal health and fetal and infant development.


The objective was to evaluate systematically the effect of LC-PUFA supplementation of pregnant women's diets on pregnancy outcomes and growth measures at birth.


We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and the Cochrane Library through August 2005 and also searched the references in reviewed articles for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing LC-PUFA supplementation with placebo or no supplementation.


Of 6 included RCTs, only 1 was judged to be at low risk of bias. Supplementation with n-3 LC-PUFAs in these 6 RCTs (1278 infants) was associated with a significantly greater length of pregnancy [weighted mean difference (WMD): 1.57 d; 95% CI: 0.35, 2.78 d; findings stable on sensitivity analysis] than in control subjects. We found no evidence that supplementation influenced the percentage of preterm deliveries, the rate of low-birth-weight infants, or the rate of preeclampsia or eclampsia. We found no significant difference in the 6 RCTs (1278 infants) in birth weight (WMD: 54 g; 95% CI: -3.1, 111 g) and no significant difference in 5 RCTs (1262 infants) in birth length (WMD: 0.23 cm; 95% CI: -0.04, 0.5 cm), but, in 4 RCTs (729 infants), there was a significant increase in head circumference (WMD: 0.26 cm; 95% CI: 0.02, 0.49 cm; significance was lost on sensitivity analysis).


n-3 LC-PUFA supplementation during pregnancy may enhance pregnancy duration and head circumference, but the mean effect size is small. The implications of these findings for later growth and development remain to be elucidated.

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