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Study finds pregnant and lactating women to be slacking on omega-3 consumption, endangering foetal growth

Posted:  Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Pregnancy and lactation impose a huge nutritional burden on the mother as she needs to support both herself and the growing infant. Many nutrients thus assume prime importance during these periods, one of them being long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA). However, to much chagrin, a recent Canadian study found that pregnant and lactating women were not meeting the recommendations for omega-3 LCPUFA, thus endangering the pregnancy outcome.

Published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, the study analysed the omega-3 LCPUFA consumption of the first 600 women in the Alberta Pregnancy Outcomes and Nutrition (APrON) cohort during and after pregnancy. The researchers found that despite high levels of education and income, the women were not meeting the recommended intake for omega-3 LCPUFA during pregnancy and lactation.

The American Dietetic Association along with Dieticians of Canada recommends consumption of at least 500 mg/day of omega-3 LCPUFA for pregnant and lactating women. The European Commission and the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL) recommends a minimum of 200mg/day of omega-3 LCPUFA for pregnant and lactating women.

Elaborating on the study results, the researchers said, “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 n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids intake from foods, with the majority from salmon. Results suggest that the majority of women in the cohort were not meeting the EU recommendation for DHA during pregnancy and lactation."

The study also found that 44% of women who reported supplement consumption during pregnancy did not follow it up when breastfeeding at 3 months after delivery. The researchers suggest continuing education and counselling during the postpartum period to prevent this scenario.

The study throws light on the consumption patterns of beneficial omega-3 LCPUFA by pregnant and lactating mothers. This information could help practitioners ensure that their consumption doesn’t taper off during the course of pregnancy and lactation.

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