Omega-3 Fatty Acids Give Pregnant Women Important Health Advantages

Washington, D.C., March 21, 2017In response to a research letter, “Seven-year Follow-up of Children Born to Women in a Randomized Trial of Prenatal DHA Supplementation,” published online today in JAMA, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the leading trade association for the dietary supplement and functional food industry, issued the following statement:

Statement by Duffy MacKay, N.D., senior vice president, scientific & regulatory affairs, CRN: 

“Every human has a basic nutritional need for omega-3 fatty acids, and pregnant women are no exception. In fact, pregnant women are an at-risk population for which shortfalls of any nutrient, including omega-3s, can lead to devastating effects. The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for overall health of both mother and child are numerous, but first and foremost, they are critically important for brain and eye development. Recommendations for pregnant and breastfeeding women to consume adequate levels of DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid, by the March of Dimes and the American Academy of Pediatrics, respectively, reinforce the importance of this nutrient.

Unfortunately, the null conclusion of this research letter may leave people questioning, rather than confirming, the valuable role of omega-3s during pregnancy. Before jumping to conclusions that may mislead consumers, it is important to take into account the many limitations hindering this study. For instance, we do not know the overall nutrition status of the women—during pregnancy and breastfeeding—or of the children. We also do not know the omega-3 status of the women and children in the placebo group in comparison to the treatment group. Finally, the authors do not consider factors that could be relevant to the children’s IQ and other measures of cognition, such as socioeconomic status and level or quality of education. Without factoring in these key measurements, people should not make decisions on omega-3s based on the authors’ conclusion.

For the general population to obtain adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids, two to three servings of fatty fish per week are recommended. For the many people who don’t eat fatty fish, such as salmon, anchovies, or sardines, multiple times per week, omega-3 fatty acid supplements fill this nutrient shortfall. For women of childbearing age, we recommend talking to your doctor about the need for a prenatal multivitamin in addition to an omega-3 supplement in order to ensure you are getting enough of the nutrients that are essential to the health and well-being of you and your baby.”  

Note to Editor: The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), founded in 1973, is a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing 150+ dietary supplement and functional food manufacturers, ingredient suppliers, and companies providing services to those manufacturers and suppliers. In addition to complying with a host of federal and state regulations governing dietary supplements and food in the areas of manufacturing, marketing, quality control and safety, our manufacturer and supplier members also agree to adhere to additional voluntary guidelines as well as to CRN’s Code of Ethics. Visit Follow us on Twitter @crn_supplements and @wannabewell and on Facebook.