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BMJ Open. 2012 Aug 24;2(4). pii: e001370. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001370. Print 2012.

Do ω-3 or other fatty acids influence the development of 'growing pains'? A prebirth cohort study.

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School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, Avon, UK.



To assess whether the prevalence of growing pains varies with indicators of fatty acid exposure. Growing pains (limb pains of no obvious explanation) have been shown to be strongly linked to a family history of arthritis, and are thought to predict an increased risk of the development of arthritis in adulthood. Much has been made of the possibility of fatty acids, particularly the ω-3 fatty acids, playing a preventive role in the development of arthritis, but little research has been undertaken to determine whether such fatty acids might reduce the risk of growing pains. We aimed to assess whether the prevalence of growing pains varies with indicators of fatty acid exposures.


Case-control study nested within a prospective longitudinal cohort comparing prenatal and postnatal diet, blood measures and variants in fatty acid desaturase (FADS) genes that influence the metabolism of fatty acids. Statistical analysis took account of factors such as gender, smoke exposure, maternal age and education, social class and parity.


Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents & Children.


All children born between 1 April 1991 and 31 December 1992 (approximately14 000) within the Avon area (only that part of Avon under the South-West Regional Health Authority). This project compared 1676 children who reported 'growing pains' at age 8 with 6155 with no such pain.


Reported limb pains of no apparent origin.


There was no indication that the affected children had diets that differed with regard to ω-3, plasma levels of fatty acids, or the FADS genetic variants. We also assessed fetal and infant exposure but neither maternal prenatal blood levels nor maternal dietary intake, or duration of breast feeding showed any significant relationships even after adjustment for confounders.


Thus, there is no evidence that ω-3 fatty acid status protects against the development of growing pains in childhood.

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