Prenatal and Infant Health

Is Preterm Infant Development Undermined by High Linoleic Acid and Low DHA?

Preterm infants, who have very little body fat, are especially dependent on postnatal feeding for their nutrition needs. Because the transfer of LC-PUFAs from the placenta, which is most rapid in the third trimester, has been interrupted, these infants must obtain their LC-PUFAs from breast milk or preterm infant formula. There is some evidence that LC-PUFA supplementation of preterm infants improves neurodevelopmental outcomes, but several recent reviews report inconsistent evidence of benefit from studies that vary in dose, timing and methods of testing. Nevertheless, accretion of DHA in brain depends…

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DHA-Supplemented Healthy Term Infants Score Higher in Gesture Communication

Although the need for sufficient long-chain PUFAs to meet the postnatal developmental needs of pre- and term infants is well recognized, trials aimed at demonstrating the neurodevelopmental benefits of providing infants with abundant LC-PUFAs are inconclusive. For example, preterm infants fed 1% DHA from day 2 to 4 of life until term corrected age did not have increased Bayley Mental Development Index scores at 18 months corrected age, but in subgroup analysis, girls’ scores were higher. A recent meta-analysis of 12 trials using LC-PUFA-supplemented infant formula found no significant effect…

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Added DHA in Pregnancy Linked to Fewer Medical Complications and Very Low Birthweights

Two of the most common medical complications of pregnancy are preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. Preeclampsia is a condition of high blood pressure and protein in the urine in women without a history of high blood pressure that may develop after the 20th week of pregnancy. It is more common in women who have hypertension before they become pregnant, are experiencing their first pregnancy or are overweight. Preeclampsia increases the chance of preterm delivery and poses a high risk to the mother’s health. It occurs in 3% to 5% of all…

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Do Preterm Infants Get Too Much Linoleic Acid and Too Little DHA in Breast Milk?

Preterm infants are at risk for medical complications, poorer developmental outcomes and nutrient shortages for several reasons. One is their early birth deprives them of the transfer of long-chain fatty acids from the mother that occurs mainly in the last trimester. Another is that their lack of body fat means they have no appreciable nutrient stores to see them through their early days. Finally, preterm infants are totally dependent upon breast milk or preterm infant formula to meet all their nutrient needs. Of particular importance is the preterm infant’s lack…

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DHA-Supplemented Term Infants Score Higher in Gesture Communication

Many studies of infant development have reported improved visual, cognitive and neurodevelopmental scores in infants with higher consumption of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Improvements have been easier to demonstrate in preterm infants compared with term infants because of the nutrient shortages many preterm infants have. However, not all studies have observed improved development scores, so the value of providing higher levels of long-chain PUFAs through breast milk or infant formula has been controversial. Some reasons for the mixed findings are the inadequacy of the dose, sensitivity of the assessment…

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Unimpaired Neurodevelopment in Adolescents of Mothers with High Prenatal Fish and Methylmercury Intakes

The benefits of fish consumption during pregnancy, which provides nutrients and long-chain omega-3 PUFAs (n-3 LC-PUFAs), consistently outweigh the potentially harmful effects related to the exposure of environmental contaminants, particularly methylmercury, in fish and shellfish. Not all women and health care providers see it that way, but scientists familiar with the literature do. Evidence from populations in the Arctic and Seychelle Islands who consume large amounts of ocean fish indicates that children exposed to high DHA intakes and environmental contaminants from seafoods have better visual acuity into late childhood and…

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Low Breast Milk DHA Linked to Greater Risk of Depressive Symptoms in Pregnancy

One of the more pressing questions about perinatal depressive symptoms is why some women develop the condition and others do not. A history of depressive illness, high levels of stress and adverse socioeconomic conditions increase the risk of a woman’s developing depressive symptoms, but other factors also contribute to the risk. One of these may be a woman’s long-chain PUFA status, especially her blood and tissue concentrations of DHA. This fatty acid is especially important during pregnancy because maternal diet and stores supply DHA for fetal and infant brain development….

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Dietary n-6:n-3 PUFA Ratio Higher Than 9 Linked to Higher Risk of Postpartum Depression

The World Health Organization estimates that perinatal depressive disorders affect between 10% and 40% of women worldwide. In low- and middle-income countries, the average prevalence of common perinatal mental disorders was estimated at 15.9%. Rates in developed countries tend to be lower, ranging from 6.5% to 12.9% for major depression at different times during the first year postpartum. In Brazil, where this study was conducted, the prevalence of depression during pregnancy was reported at 24.3%. After delivery, postpartum depression prevalence fell to 10.8%. Many factors contribute to the risk of…

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Learning and Behavior in Adolescents Whose Mothers Ate Fish During Pregnancy

Persistent worries about the potential dangers from consuming fish and the methylmercury they contain continue to frighten women away from eating fish during pregnancy, especially in the U.S. Mercury is present in nearly all seafood in the form of methylmercury. Seafood consumption is already very low in the U.S. and Canada, as shown in government surveys and research studies. Some estimates suggest that as many as 20% of women of child-bearing age eat no fish or shellfish. This poses a problem for women during pregnancy and lactation. Women who eat…

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Depressive Symptoms in Early Pregnancy Linked to Lower Breast Milk DHA Levels

Some women develop depressive symptoms during or after childbirth, but it is unclear why some women do and others do not. A history of depressive illness and difficult socioeconomic conditions increase the risk of developing this condition, but other factors, including nutrition may contribute as well. Several studies have examined whether a woman’s long-chain fatty acid status is associated with the odds of developing perinatal depressive symptoms. There is good reason to think that having too little of the long-chain omega-3s found in fish and shellfish in tissues may contribute…

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