Pregnant women not getting enough omega-3 fats

March 26, 2015 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding, Women's Health

Pregnant women not getting enough omega-3 fats

Alberta Pregnancy Outcomes and Nutrition (APrON) is a study involving over two thousand women and their infants from Calgary and Edmonton that includes researchers at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary. The main objective of APrON is to understand the relationship between maternal nutrient status during pregnancy and maternal mental health and child health and development.

As part of the project, the APrON team studied 600 women in the cohort during and after their pregnancy to see whether they were consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids to meet current recommendations. A source of omega-3’s is required during pregnancy for fetal and placental development and is critical for the development of the infant, particularly for brain development.

The American Dietetic Association along with Dietitians of Canada recommends that all healthy adults including pregnant and lactating women consume at least 500 mg/day of omega-3 fatty acids. The European Commission and the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL) specifically recommends that pregnant and lactating women consume a minimum of 200 mg DHA per day.

The team found that the majority of participants, despite a high level of education and income, were not meeting these recommendations for omega-3’s during pregnancy and lactation. Only 27% of women during pregnancy and 25% at three months postpartum met the current European Union (EU) consensus recommendation for DHA.

Seafood, fish and seaweed products contributed to 79% of overall omega-3 fatty acids intake from foods, with the majority from salmon.

The current study found women who took a supplement containing DHA were ten times more likely to meet the current EU consensus recommendation for pregnancy and postpartum. Recommendations could also be met by following the Health Canada recommendation to consume one to two portions per week of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids.

The results of this study also suggest that nutritional counseling and education about benefits of a supplement source of omega-3 fatty acids should extend beyond pregnancy as 44% percent of the participants who reported taking a supplement during pregnancy were no longer taking these supplements when breast feeding at three months postpartum.

Source: Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 2015.

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