Effects of maternal omega-3 fatty acids supplementation during pregnancy/lactation on body composition of the offspring: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Clin Nutr. 2018 Oct;37(5):1462-1473. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2017.08.002. Epub 2017 Aug 10.


Background & aims: The effect of maternal omega-3 fatty acids intake on the body composition of the offspring is unclear. The aim of this study was to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to confirm the effects of omega-3 fatty acids supplementation during pregnancy and/or lactation on body weight, body length, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, fat mass and sum of skinfold thicknesses of offspring.

Methods: Human intervention studies were selected by a systematic search of PubMed, Web of Science, the Cochrane Library and references of related reviews and studies. Randomized controlled trials of maternal omega-3 fatty acids intake during pregnancy or lactation for offspring's growth were included. The data were analyzed with RevMan 5.3 and Stata 12.0. Effect sizes were presented as weighted mean differences (WMD) or standardized mean difference (SMD) with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI).

Results: Twenty-six studies comprising 10,970 participants were included. Significant increases were found in birth weight (WMD = 42.55 g, 95% CI: 21.25, 63.85) and waist circumference (WMD = 0.35 cm, 95% CI: 0.04, 0.67) in the omega-3 fatty acids group. There were no effects on birth length (WMD = 0.09 cm, 95% CI: -0.03, 0.21), postnatal length (WMD = 0.13 cm, 95% CI: -0.11, 0.36), postnatal weight (WMD = 0.04 kg, 95% CI: -0.07, 0.14), BMI (WMD = 0.09, 95% CI: -0.05, 0.23), the sum of skinfold thicknesses (WMD = 0.45 mm, 95% CI: -0.30, 1.20), fat mass (WMD = 0.05 kg, 95% CI: -0.01, 0.11) and the percentage of body fat (WMD = 0.04%, 95% CI: -0.38, 0.46).

Conclusions: This meta-analysis showed that maternal omega-3 fatty acids supplementation can increase offspring's birth weight and postnatal waist circumference. However, it did not appear to influence children's birth length, postnatal weight/length, BMI, sum of skinfold thicknesses, fat mass and the percentage of body fat during postnatal period. Larger, well-designed studies are recommended to confirm this conclusion.

Keywords: Body composition; Lactation; Meta; Omega-3 fatty acid; Pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Birth Weight
  • Body Composition / drug effects
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index
  • Breast Feeding
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lactation
  • Male
  • Mothers
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / drug effects
  • Prenatal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Skinfold Thickness


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3