Fish oil, taken during pregnancy, increases brain function in children as young as 10 years old


(Geneva, June 4, 2021) Children of mothers who took fish oil during their pregnancy have been shown to have faster problem-solving skills and better attention-focusing by the age of 10, according to the results of a 6th Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition study today .

This is the first study to look at the long-term effects of maternal fish oil and / or 5-MTHF (folic acid) supplementation on the function of the resting state network (RSN) (the “resting” brain activity when a person is not doing it). a cognitive or active task) by children of school age and was funded by the European Union.

The children were examined at the age of 10 with a special rs-MRI brain scanning to measure the RSN along with neuropsychological tests. The results of all groups were then compared for differences.

Professor Dr. Berthold Koletzko, head of the department for metabolic and nutritional medicine at Dr. von Hauner Children’s Hospital, Munich University Hospital, is one of the authors of the study. Professor Koletzko says children born to mothers who took the DHA-rich fish oil during pregnancy had beneficial effects with faster processing speeds in solving complex problems and better results in attention tests.

‘The results show that the quality of the maternal nutrient supply during the phase of rapid early brain development in pregnancy has a lasting influence on brain function later in school age.

Therefore, before and during pregnancy, women should be supported in achieving a high quality diet and advised on the possible use of fish oil supplements. ‘

Study coordinator and director of the EURISTIKOS Center of Excellence in Pediatric Research at the University of Granada, Spain, Professor Christina Campoy added: “Our research shows that children of mothers who took fish oil in the second half of pregnancy have improved memories . Fish oil supplementation has been linked to decreased functional connectivity of children’s brain networks, but this did not indicate poor cognitive neurodevelopment, quite the opposite. ‘

The supplementation with folic acid did not lead to any significant change in the measurements of the brain function.

The study, by researchers from the University of Granada, Spain, tracked 57 children born to mothers from a previous research programii who were given 500 mg docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and 150 mg eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) fish oil daily, with either or without 400 μg 5-MTHF ( Folic acid), folic acid alone, or placebo during the second half of pregnancy.

The authors emphasized that although the sample size was small, a large number of validated techniques were used to assess their hypothesis in the study and the data came from a well-established cohort (a group that is followed over the long term). They added that the results should be interpreted as preliminary data and cannot be considered general as more research is needed.

Commenting on the research, Professor Magnus Domellöf, Chair of the ESPGHAN Nutrition Committee, said, “The results of this study show that eating early during pregnancy can have a significant impact on brain development in children, with the potential to improve cognitive performance. We look forward to testing the results of this study in further studies. ‘


Notes for editors

For more information or to speak to Professor Campoy or an ESPGHAN expert, please contact Sean Deans at or call +44 (0) 208 154 6396.

Please note that any use of this press release must refer to both ESPGHAN and the 6th World Congress on Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.


To view a high resolution version of ESPGHAN’s fish oil infographic, please click here.

About the expert

Professor Christina Campoy is Director of the EURISTIKOS Center of Excellence in Pediatric Research at the University of Granada, Spain.


The European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) is a multiprofessional organization whose aim is to promote the health of children with special attention to the gastrointestinal tract, liver and nutritional status through knowledge building and dissemination of scientifically based information , promoting good practice in care and providing quality education for pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition professionals in Europe and beyond. Learn more at

About the 6th virtual world congress

The virtual 6th World Congress for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition will take place from June 2nd to 5th, 2021.

The congress is jointly organized by the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) and the Federation of International Societies of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (FISPGHAN). The congress, held every four years, brings together field experts from around the world to promote global collaboration and education in the fields of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition.

For more information on the World Congress, including the program, please visit:

Follow ESPGHAN on Twitter: @ESPGHANSociety


Campoy, C., et al. 2021. Long-term association between dietary supplementation with fish oil and / or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate during pregnancy and the dormant state of the brain of the offspring at the age of 10 years. Presented at the 6th World Congress on Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.

The NUHEAL Study;

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