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The obesity epidemic in our country is rampant and it often starts with children. Would giving fish oil supplements to infants be the holy grail to fighting off this disease? The Doctors share a study out of Australia which found fish oil supplements given to babies may prevent obesity and insulin resistance in the child as they grow up.
Researchers looked at 420 infants and gave half of them 650ml of fish oil and the other half a placebo of olive oil. The infants who took the fish oil supplements for the first six months of their lives were then looked at when they were 5 years old; blood was taken and their waist circumference was measured. Those children who had taken the fish oil had smaller waists than those who had the placebo.
Does this mean all infants should be given these supplements? ER physician Dr. Travis Stork says he was intrigued by the study's findings but is not fully comfortable with the concept of testing being done on babies. Pediatrician Dr. Eric Ball joins on Skype to weigh in on if this study has implications for how he and other pediatricians may practice.
Dr. Ball acknowledges that this is an interesting study. "We know smaller waists in adults leads to fewer heart attacks and cardiovascular incidences. So the question is, 'does having a smaller waist size at age five lead you to have lower heart attack risk when older.' That's a bit unclear."
Dr. Ball says with just this study alone, he doesn't think he would change how he practices. He would not recommend this to parents or give his own children fish oil supplements at this time. In general, most pediatricians are reluctant to put kids as well as babies on supplements because they aren't well regulated and have not been tested for safety and efficacy in babies and children. Dr. Travis notes even with fish oil and Omega-3 studies, there are mixed results regarding how beneficial they are.
Dr. Travis highlights the concept that giving children foods high in Omega-3s could be useful and it is sugar which is a bigger problem that needs to be attacked in regards to childhood obesity and future health concerns.
As for fish oil supplements, "I look forward to seeing what happens in the future with long-term studies," Dr. Ball concludes.