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DHA supplements consumed by pregnant women don't really enhance the IQ of the children, a research revealed.Alan Antiporda/Flickr

Women consume various supplements during their pregnancy, in order to make sure that their newborns are healthy. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is one of the most commonly consumed supplements.

DHA is said to aid in boosting brain power and eyesight of the baby, but a seven-year-long research has rubbished the claim.

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Long-term research published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) states that DHA supplements showed no signs of boosting the IQ of children, at least until the age of seven.

Despite seeing a spike in sales of prenatal supplements containing DHA, there is very little proof it is actually benefiting the neurodevelopment of the offspring. 

These supplements cost between £12 (INR980 approx) and £15 (INR1,224 approx) a month, which will come to £135 (INR11,015 approx), if a woman consumes them through her entire pregnancy. 

Researcher Maria Makrides, of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, Adelaide, Australia, along with other colleagues, carried out the test on a random selection of pregnant women. These women were given 800 mg of DHA supplement or a placebo daily during the last-half of their pregnancy period.

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No differences were found in the cognitive, language or motor development of the infants when they turned 18-months-old, according to a statement.

"At four years of age there was no benefit of DHA supplementation in general intelligence, language, and executive functioning, and a possible negative effect on parent-rated behaviour and executive functioning. This follow-up was designed to evaluate the effect of prenatal DHA on intelligence quotient at seven years, the earliest age at which adult performance can be indicated," the press release stated.

This research involved 543 children, who were followed-up till the age of seven. The IQ of the children belonging to the two control groups, one of which was given DHA, were then compared. It was revealed that there was barely any difference in the IQ levels of both groups (98.31 for the DHA group vs 97.32 for the control group).

"Direct assessments consistently demonstrated no significant differences in language, academic abilities, or executive functioning. Although perceptual reasoning was slightly higher in the DHA group, parent-reported behavioural problems and executive dysfunction were worse with prenatal DHA supplementation," the study revealed.

In fact, researchers found a minute, but consistent negative impact of prenatal DHA on the behavioural and executive functioning of children at four and seven years.

On the other hand, a spokesman for the Health Food Manufacturers' Association (HFMA), which represents the supplements industry, told Mail Online: "This single study fails to reflect the huge body of positive evidence showing the importance of DHA for cognitive function, including a meta-analysis of multiple studies, carried out in 2013, where the authors concluded that supplementation with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids such as DHA raised the intelligence levels of young children."

"This evidence is further strengthened by the approval of various health claims in the EU following rigorous assessment by the European Food Safety Authority. Based on the totality of generally accepted scientific evidence, and not on individual studies, these health claims reflect the benefits of omega-3 fats for cognitive function, both in foetal development, and throughout all ages," the HFMA spokesperson added.