Fish oil may mitigate cardiovascular risk of impaired fetal growth

March 1, 2012

Daily fish oil supplementation during the first 5 years of life may reduce the risk of later cardiovascular disease in those with impaired fetal growth.

Daily fish oil supplementation during the first 5 years of life may reduce the risk of later cardiovascular (CV) disease in those with impaired fetal growth, researchers have found in a controlled clinical trial.

Babies with a birth weight below the 90th percentile for their gestational age and sex (n=363) were studied. They were randomized to a 500-mg fish oil supplement daily along with canola-based margarine and cooking oil (omega-3 group) or to a control group that received a sunflower oil supplement and omega-6 fatty acid-rich margarine and cooking oil.

Carotid intima-media thickness (IMT), a surrogate marker of subclinical atherosclerosis, was measured when the children were 8 years old.

Each 1-kg lower birth weight normally translates into a 10% to 20% increased risk of coronary artery disease in adulthood, but the omega-3 supplementation appeared to mitigate this increase in risk. The researchers note that the effect of omega-3 supplementation on carotid IMT is consistent with a potential 5% to 7% reduction in risk of future myocardial infarction and a 6% to 8% reduction in risk of future stroke per kilogram of birth weight.

Compliance with the fish oil capsules was only about 50%, so the true benefit of omega-3 supplementation may be even greater than that observed in this study, they add.

Skilton MR, Aver JG, Harmer JA, et al. Impaired fetal growth and arterial wall thickening: a randomized trial of omega-3 supplementation. Pediatrics. 2012. Epub ahead of print.