ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
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Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Garlic Yields Up Its Health Secret
Massage Therapy Helps Those With Advanced Cancer
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ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Body Fat, Muscle Distribution Linked to RA Disability
A Winning Strategy to Beat Spring Sporting Injuries
Returning to the Road Tricky After Injury
CANCER
Method for Treating Cervical Lesions May Pose Pregnancy Risks
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
Get to Know the Pap Test
CAREGIVING
Are Hospital Mobile Phones Dialing Up Superbugs?
Mom's Smoking May Lead to SIDS
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome as Deadly as Ever
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
COSMETIC
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
DENTAL, ORAL
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion
Gum Disease Treatment Doesn't Cut Preterm Birth Risk
DIABETES
Insulin Resistance Tied to Peripheral Artery Disease
Formula Puts Doctor, Patient Glucose Readings on Same Page
Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good
DIET, NUTRITION
Eating Lots Of Vegetables, Olive Oil May Extend Life
The Best Diet? That Depends on You
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Meat-Eating Dinosaurs Used Legs and Arms Like Birds
1976 Italian Dioxin Release Damaged Babies' Thyroids
Sunken, Unexploded Bombs Pose Cancer Risk
EYE CARE, VISION
Contact Lens Cases Often Contaminated
When Corks Fly, Watch the Eyes
High Temps Degrade Contact Lens Solution: Study
FITNESS
Marathoners Go the Distance on Heart Health
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
GENERAL HEALTH
The Juice From Beetroots May Boost Stamina
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
Music Therapy For Prehistoric Man?
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Vitamin B3 May Help Repair Brain After a Stroke
Irregular Heartbeat Tied to Alzheimer's Disease
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Combo Treatment Eases Wheezing in Babies
St. John's Wort Doesn't Work for ADHD
Should Your Child Be Seeing a Chiropractor?
MEN'S HEALTH
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
Soy Linked to Low Sperm Count
MENTAL HEALTH
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
Meditation, Yoga Might Switch Off Stress Genes
Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
SENIORS
High-Impact Activity May Be Good for Old Bones
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
The Healthy Habits of Centenarians
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
WOMEN'S HEALTH
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
Air Pollution Slows Women's Marathon Times
Supplements Might Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
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Omega-3 Fatty Acid May Help 'Preemie' Girls' Brains

TUESDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say they boosted the brain function of female preterm babies by increasing the amount of an omega-3 fatty acid in either formula or breast milk.

The study, which appears in the Jan. 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that preterm baby girls fed a diet high in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) improved their scores on a mental development test by five points. The intervention also led to an 80 percent reduction in the number of baby girls with significant mental delays, the researchers said.

But the intervention didn't confer the same benefits to baby boys, the team noted.

"We hypothesized that if the diets of preterm infants contained a concentration of DHA that was at a level the baby would have received if still in the womb, then we would improve the mental development of these preterm children," said the study's lead author, Maria Makrides, deputy director of the Women's and Children's Health Research Institute and professor of human nutrition at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

Makrides said the idea for the study came from previous research that found that giving low levels of DHA to preemies could improve their visual acuity. That study, however, was unclear whether there were mental benefits as well. Makrides and her colleagues hoped that by increasing the levels of DHA, they would see an improvement in neurocognitive functioning.

The study included 657 infants who were randomly assigned to receive a standard dose of DHA or a high dose. If mothers were breast-feeding, they were given capsules containing the omega-3 fatty acid. Otherwise, they were given fortified formula. Both treatments were given until the babies reached what would have been their expected delivery date.

To test the babies' brain function, the researchers used a test called the Bayley Mental Development Index, which assesses memory, problem solving, early number concepts and language.

When the researchers first tallied the data, they found virtually no difference. But, when they separated the groups by gender, a difference emerged. The baby girls' scores on the test went up by an average of five points. According to Makrides, that translates to a 55 percent reduction in the number of girls with a mild mental delay and, for those given high levels of DHA, an 80 percent reduction.

Why the treatment didn't help boys isn't clear.

"We can only speculate that there are differences in the metabolism of boys and girls that we do not yet understand," Makrides said. "The higher metabolic rate in boys may mean that they utilize much of the DHA they receive into energy. Also, boys may have a higher requirement for DHA. Clearly, this is an area of important research for the future."

Samantha Heller, a New York City-based registered dietician, said she also could not explain why there was such a difference between boys and girls in this study.

"What I can tell you is that DHA is really important for the development of the brain in the womb, and the eyes and visual acuity," Heller said. "There have been studies that show mid-pregnancy supplementation can improve children's outcomes."

"So, what pregnant women can do is focus on their diets, before getting pregnant and during pregnancy, and include foods that have omega-3 fatty acids, like low-mercury fish," she said. "Some examples are anchovies, herring, catfish, canned salmon, sardines, Pacific sole, tilapia, freshwater trout and whitefish."

And she had one more bit of advice: "If you're going to take supplements, talk to your ob/gyn first."

-Serena Gordon

More information

To learn more about premature birth, visit the March of Dimes.



SOURCES: Maria Makrides, B.Sc., B.N.D., Ph.D., deputy director, Women's and Children's Health Research Institute, and professor of human nutrition, University of Adelaide, Australia; Samantha Heller, M.S., R.D., New York City; Jan. 14, 2009, Journal of the American Medical Association

Last Updated: Jan. 13, 2009

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