Omega-3 during pregnancy and children’s behavioural problems

 
 
 

The most common psychosocial problems in children include disorders associated with emotions (e.g. sadness, anxiety, depression, anger), behaviour (e.g. relationship disturbances with friends and family, aggressiveness), disorders associated with psychological factors (e.g. abdominal pain, feeding and sleeping disturbances) and mental performance (e.g. poor school performance). These disorders may be caused by diverse factors and to assess and treat them, if necessary, we must consult a health care professional.

A group of researchers from Amsterdam (The Netherlands) have investigated the association between maternal plasma level of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids during pregnancy and children’s risk of behavioural problems at five years of age (children’s behaviour was rated by their mother and teacher). They found that greater concentrations of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid, decreased children’s risk for emotional symptoms. They also observed that a lower eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) level, another omega-3 fatty acid, and a greater level of omega-6 (a group of fatty acids from another “family”) tended to increase the risk for emotional symptoms and the risk of hyperactivity and inattention problems.

These results emphasise the importance of an adequate and balanced supply of fatty acids in pregnant women for children’s long-term behavioural outcomes.

 

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