A 7-year follow-up study has found no evidence to suggest that prenatal ;supplementation with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can increase intelligence quotient (IQ) in offspring.

Sales of prenatal supplements with DHA continue to rise, however little evidence exists on whether supplementation imparts a benefit on offspring neurodevelopment. The latest analysis followed up on a group of children whose birth mothers were randomized to receive either 800mg of DHA daily or placebo during the second half of their pregnancy.

No differences in cognitive, language, or motor development were noted at 18 months between the offspring of mothers who received DHA and those who received placebo. Similarly, at 4 years, no difference was demonstrated between both groups in general intelligence, language, and executive function. In fact, researchers noted a possible negative effect on parent-rated behavior and executive function. 

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The latest follow-up corroborates the findings from 18 months and 4 years. A total of 543 children (85% of the original cohort) took part in the 7-year follow-up, the earliest age at which adult performance can be indicated. Results showed no significant difference in average IQ of both groups; 98.31 vs. 97.32, for the DHA and placebo group, respectively. Direct assessments consistently demonstrated no significant differences in language, academic abilities, or executive functioning.

The authors noted that “the small but consistent negative effects of prenatal DHA on behavior and executive functioning at 7 and 4 years may reflect true effects, although effect sizes were small and neurodevelopmental diagnoses did not differ between groups.”

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