Babies whose mothers take Omega-3 fish oil supplements during pregnancy suffer fewer colds and shorter illnesses during their first six months of life, researchers have found.
A study of more than 800 babies showed that mothers who took supplements of a particular Omega-3 acid during the second half of their pregnancy had healthier babies.
Infants whose mothers had taken 400mg Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) capsules each day had fewer colds at the age of one month than a control group, although they had longer-lasting rashes.
After three months those whose parents had taken the supplements spent 14 per cent less time ill, and at six months they had less fever, breathing problems, rashes and other illnesses but significantly higher levels of vomiting.
Researchers from Emory University in Georgia, America said the trials conducted in Mexico showed that infants in the group whose mothers had taken DHA were healthier overall.
In a study published in the Pediatrics journal, they said DHA influenced the duration of illness symptoms and reduced the infants' chances of catching colds.
Omega-3 acids play an important role in brain and eye development in foetuses, especially during the last trimester of pregnancy, but previous studies on adults and children have showed varied effects on the immune system and illness.
Additional studies are needed to examine exactly how fatty acids influence infants' immune systems and the potential benefits of taking supplements while pregnant and during breastfeeding, the researchers said.