Omega-3s Increase Intelligence
The first long-term study on prenatal omega-3 supplements suggests they may make children smarter. In the placebo-controlled, randomized study conducted by Ingrid Helland, M.D., of the University of Oslo in Norway, 431 pregnant women were given daily 10 ml supplements of either cod liver oil or corn oil from 10 weeks gestation through three months postpartum. The cod liver oil contained about 2.5 g of omega-3 fats; the corn oil contained omega-6 fats. Both oils contained the same amount of fat-soluble vitamins.
Four years later, 84 of the children were tested for IQ using the K-ABC intelligence test. The 4-year-olds whose mothers had taken cod liver oil tested significantly higher on mental processing, with an average score of 106.4, compared with 102.3 for children whose mothers took corn oil. Test results correlated with both the quantity of prenatal omega-3 consumption and with the babies' own omega-3 fat levels at four weeks of age. It is standard Norwegian policy to give all babies cod liver oil; now the practice may also be extended to mothers-to-be.
Red Clover Causes Prostate Cancer Cell Suicide
Red clover may cause prostate cancer cells to commit suicide, according to a preliminary study conducted by R.A. Jarred of Monash University in Victoria, Australia. This unblinded, nonrandomized study matched a historic control group with 20 men with nonmetastatic prostate cancer who underwent prostatectomy. Men who were vegetarians, ate soy or received hormone therapy were excluded. The men took daily supplements of 160 mg of isoflavone-rich red clover until their surgery, an average of 20 days. Presurgery biopsy samples were compared with specimens obtained from the surgery for cell suicide, or apoptosis. Apoptosis is an orderly series of steps a cell takes to die. Compared with controls, men taking the red clover supplements showed six times more apoptosis (1.49 percent of cells compared with 0.25 percent) in areas of low- to moderate-level cancer. The longer they took the supplements, the more apoptosis resulted. The positive results from this small observational study may lead to a larger double-blind, placebo-controlled study on red clover and prostate cancer.
Pacifying Baby's Pain
Breast-feeding blocks pain in babies, according to the first study conducted on the subject. R. Carbajal, M.D., a pediatrician at Poissy-Saint Germain Hospital in France, put 180 newborns into four groups that received different handling during a routine blood draw. The first group was breast-fed during the procedure. Group-two babies were held in their mother's arms without breast-feeding. Babies from the third group were placed alone on a table and given water, and those from the last group were placed on a table and given sugar water followed by a pacifier. All of the blood draws were videotaped so two trained observers (who were not told the study's purpose) could assess the babies' pain levels. There was a dramatic difference between the groups. On the DAN 1-to-10 scale for rating infant pain, the breast-fed babies rated only a 1, and more than a third showed no response at all. But babies held in their mothers' arms or placed on the table and given water rated a full 10, apparently experiencing maximum pain. As a breast-feeding surrogate, sugar water and a pacifier reduced the pain level to a 3.
Marilyn Sterling, R.D., is a consultant to the natural products industry and a freelance health writer in Trinidad, Calif.