Does Fish Oil Affect an Infant’s Immune System?

We all want the very best of health for our children, especially during infancy. And we know
that according to one study in Copenhagen, Denmark that newborns all have immature
immune systems and lack the ability to produce certain hormones essential to guard against
allergic reactions, bacteria, parasites, and to fight inflammation. Therefore, it appears that
adding natural fish oil supplements may be an important way to boost those immune systems.


Studies have shown that giving infants at about age 9 months fish oil supplements aided in
the maturation of their immune systems. For instance a study at Copenhagen University reported
that “supplementation with fish oil at age 9 months helps accelerate maturation.

Their study involved 64 healthy Danish infants who were fed either formula or cows’ milk for
a 3-month period following cessation of breast-feeding. Half the children were also given a
teaspoon (5 mL) of fish oil daily providing 571 mg/day of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 381
mg/day of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

The infants had blood samples drawn at the beginning and end of the trial. Analyses of red blood
cells showed a 450% increase in EPA and a 40% increase in DHA among infants who
had supplemented with fish oil; these increases were accompanied by decreases in linoleic
acid and arachidonic acid of 15%.”


Further studies that occurred in Toronto, Canada with American, British and Canadian researchers
showed that infants that were given fish oil showed a substantial increase in gamma-interferon which
is an indicator of maturation of their immune systems and aided
with avoiding asthma and other allergy problems.

The conclusion was that fish oil supplementation during the early months of life in infant’s speeds up
the maturing of their immune systems and could possibly help avoid allergic disorders.

Further in the Canadian studies, there is a controversy as to whether DHA (contained in
Omega-3 fatty acids) can be produced in infants or must it be supplied in the diet. At this
point there is no definitive answer. It is still to be determined. However, it is telling that
formula-fed infants seem to develop a DHA deficiency if the formula fed to them does not
have DHA added.

One of the most critical times for brain development is during infancy and nutrition has a tremendous
effect on that development. DHA is a vital and necessary component of the
brain. The way to obtain this DHA is either through the diet or through dietary supplements.
The most efficient way through diet would be a diet rich in fish, such as tuna, salmon,
sardines, and others.

However, there may be a danger in eating too much fish due to the contamination of the
various waterways from which we obtain the fish we eat. Mercury and other contaminants
make some of our fish dangerous to ingest. Also, it is probably a difficult way to get DHA into our
infants’ diets. We cannot really see feeding a baby salmon steaks or even tuna. It would seem that
fish oil supplementation would be the more practical answer to adding DHA to an infant‘s system.

Recently, Harvard Medical School studied over 25,000 children between 1997 and 2002 of Danish
mothers who took part in the study that looked at maternal fish consumption and recorded findings
as these children developed.

The outcome was that at 18 months children whose mothers consumed the least amount of
fish were lowest on the development scale; while the mothers who consumed the most fish
had children that were highest on the development scale. We note too that in Denmark,
species of fish most frequently consumed did not have high mercury content.

It is recommended here in the United States that pregnant women do not consume more than one
or two servings of fish weekly due to the high incidence of contamination mostly with mercury.

Studies in Mexico came to much the same conclusion as to the positive effects of DHA and
the development of the brain in infants as well as the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in the
reduction of inflammation and allergic conditions.

The conclusion is that research is ongoing and still needed to examine the dosages of
omega-3 fatty acids needed in infants as well as the benefits of adding natural fish oil supplements
to an infant’s diet. As this research progresses we will have more definitive information regarding all
the benefits of fish oil.

Always check with your pediatrician or infant’s primary health care provider before adding
any supplement to their diets.

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