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Omega-3 Docosahexaenoic Acid Supplementation: Effects on Gestational Length in Pregnant Women

Posted:  Friday, October 14, 2016

Association Between Omega-3 Docosahexaenoic Acid Supplementation and Gestational Length in Pregnant Women

A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published in the journal BioMed Research International compared the effect of supplementation with omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) oil versus nutrition education on gestational length.

The two-part intervention trial involved 871 women with singleton pregnancies who were randomised to 300 mg DHA, 600 mg DHA, olive oil placebo, and nutrition education. The nutrition education arm was designed to increase DHA intake from fish and other dietary sources by 300 mg per day. The nutrition education materials included a short (one-page) printed nutrition education flyer discussing the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, a daily reminder/planner with DHA information, recipes, etc. Additional recipes and DHA-enriched egg coupons were mailed to the participants every month. Gestational length (in days) was the primary outcome measure.

Compared to placebo, gestational length significantly increased by 4.0–4.5 days in pregnant women receiving 600 mg DHA supplementation or 4.5 days of nutrition education. Additionally, maternal erythrocyte (RBC) DHA significantly increased in the DHA intervention group compared to placebo group. For every 1% increase in RBC DHA, the gestational length increased by1.6 days. At delivery, gestational length positively correlated with maternal RBC % total DHA. There were no significant effects of DHA supplementation or nutrition education on mean birth weight, birth length, and head circumference of infants among DHA intervention or placebo groups. In the DHA intervention group, the early preterm birth rate was significantly lower compared to that in the placebo group (1.7% vs. 5.7%).

The study demonstrated that DHA supplementation or nutrition education can be effective in increasing gestational length in low-income populations who are at relatively low risk for preterm birth. Since maternal DHA levels are associated with foetal DHA status and support lactation and early infant growth and cognitive development, improving DHA status through education or supplements is imperative.

News source - Mary A. Harris, Melanie S. Reece, James A. McGregor, et al. The Effect of Omega-3 Docosahexaenoic Acid Supplementation on Gestational Length: Randomized Trial of Supplementation Compared to Nutrition Education for Increasing n-3 Intake from Foods. Biomed Res Int. 2015; 2015: 123078.