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Effect of Prenatal Docosahexaenoic Acid Supplementation on Blood Pressure in Children With Overweight Condition or Obesity: A Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Clinical Trial

Kerling EH, Hilton JM, Thodosoff JM, Wick J, Colombo J, Carlson SE (2019) JAMA Netw Open.  2019 Feb;2(2): e190088. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.0088. 

Web URL: Read this and related abstracts on PubMed here



The blood pressure-lowering property of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in children and adults is known, and an observational study from the Netherlands has linked higher intrauterine DHA exposure to lower childhood blood pressure. However, the association of prenatal intake of DHA supplement with childhood blood pressure has not been evaluated in randomized clinical trials.


To determine the effect of DHA supplementation during pregnancy on childhood blood pressure.


This prespecified secondary analysis of the Kansas University DHA Outcome Study (KUDOS), a phase 3, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial was conducted at several local hospitals in the Kansas City, Kansas, metropolitan area. Pregnant women (n = 350) were enrolled in the KUDOS trial between January 10, 2006, and November 17, 2009, and were followed up until their children were 18 months of age. During pregnancy, the women received either 3 capsules per day of placebo or 600 mg per day of DHA from a mean (SD) of 14.5 (3.7) weeks' (all before 20 weeks) gestation until birth. The parents of 190 childrenconsented to additional follow-up of their children until 6 years, which ended April 29, 2016. Study personnel involved in testing were blind to the randomization until all children had completed the trial. Data analysis was performed from May 23, 2017, to July 10, 2018.


Pregnant women were assigned to either 600 mg per day of DHA or a placebo that was half soy and half corn oil. Both placebo and DHA were provided in 3 capsules per day.


Childhood blood pressure was a planned secondary outcome of a study powered to measure cognitive development. The hypothesis was that DHA would lower blood pressure prior to data analysis. Systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) were measured at 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, and 6 years and were analyzed for possible covariates using mixed models to generate a final model.


In total, 171 children (88 [51.5%] female) were included in this analysis. Of these children, 89 (52.0%) were randomized to the DHA group and 82 (47.9%) to the placebo group. A statistically significant interaction was found between treatment (placebo or DHA) and child weight status (5-year body mass index ≤85th or >85th percentile) for both SBP and DBP. Children who were overweight or obese whose mothers received placebo during pregnancy had higher SBP and DBP compared with children who were overweight or obese whose mothers received DHA (mean [SE] SBP, 104.28 [1.37] mm Hg vs 100.34 [1.02] mm Hg; DBP, 64.7 [1.23] mm Hg vs 59.76 [0.91] mm Hg). No differences in the SBP and DBP were found between children who were overweight or obese whose mothers received DHA and children who were not overweight or obese. In the mixed model analysis, the child's age at blood pressure measurement and the maternal prepregnancy body mass index were the only other statistically significant variables (child age, SBP: F = 7.385; P = .001; DBP: F = 7.39; P = .001; prepregnancy BMI, SBP: r = 0.284; P = .001; DBP: r = 0.216; P = .01).


Maternal docosahexaenoic acid intake during pregnancy appeared to mitigate the association between childhood overweight condition or obesity and blood pressure.