Prenatal and Infant Health

Postpartum Depressive Symptoms Linked to High Omega-6 and Low Omega-3 Intakes

Depressive illness during and after pregnancy affects from 10% to 40% of women worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. The occurrence of this burdensome condition is higher in less developed countries where treatment may be limited and difficult living conditions complicate the situation. Having previously had depressive illness and low nutrient intakes increase the risk for developing this troublesome condition. Improving the nutrient intakes of pregnant and nursing women may be one of the more feasible approaches to reducing the occurrence of depressive symptoms. Dietary fat, particularly the type…

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DHA Restriction in Early Development Leads to Distortions in Visual Pathways

If you pause to think about it, the ability of the eye to coordinate its visual responses to different types of inputs is quite remarkable. Besides responding to light with visual images, the eye responds to sound signals by turning the eye and head toward the direction of the sound. It responds to touch to determine the nature of the object it feels and processes three-dimensional vision as well. These coordinated functions occur as a result of neurons from the retina converging with other sensory neurons in two specialized brain…

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Long-Chain PUFA Status at Birth May Relate to Behaviors at Age 10

There is a small, but growing, literature on the relationship between long-chain omega-3 PUFA (n-3 LC-PUFA) status at birth and later child development, cognition and behavior. Do the observations reported in the first year of life extend into later childhood? Do relationships appear later that were absent in infancy? There are not many studies to answer these questions. One example is a report that the quality, but not the quantity of motor function at age 7 was associated with higher umbilical DHA levels. The children also had fewer problem behaviors…

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Preterm Infant Lung Function May Benefit from Higher Levels of DHA in Breast Milk

It is often noted that the prevalence of atopic diseases has been increasing around the world for the past several decades. These conditions have been associated with Western lifestyles and diets, as well as environmental and genetic factors. Preterm delivery also increases the risk of atopic (IgE-associated allergies) diseases. The most common allergic diseases in early life are asthma, eczema and rhinitis (stuffy, runny nose). Studies on allergic conditions in infants and young children have examined the relationships between the mother’s fish or long-chain omega-3 fatty acid consumption in pregnancy…

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High-Dose Omega-3s Linked to Reduced Cumulative Allergic Disease up to Age 2

The literature on the relationships between dietary fatty acids and the risk of allergy, especially in infants at high risk of developing eczema, asthma or allergic rhinitis, is fraught with inconsistencies. Omega-6 (n-6) and omega-3 (n-3) PUFAs have been associated with increased or reduced risk of allergic diseases, but the existing data do not permit firm conclusions. The effect of maternal supplementation with n-3 long-chain (LC) PUFAs in pregnancy is also unclear, although plausible reasons and evidence why these PUFAs might have anti-allergic effects, including lower sensitization to common food…

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Preterm Infants Given Fish Oil Emulsions May Have Less Retinopathy of Prematurity

Preterm infants born before 36 weeks’ gestation or those born weighing less than 1,250 grams are at high risk of mortality and morbidity, with risk increasing as gestational age decreases. Recently published findings from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network on the mortality and morbidity of nearly 10,000 infants of extremely low gestational age and birthweight describe the high rates of illness among the survivors. Early nutritional support reduces the severity of illness in these infants, though attention to LC-PUFAs has…

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Preterm Infants Fed Fish Oil May Have Less Eye Disease

One of the conditions that preterm infants risk is abnormal retinal development (retinopathy). The chances are greater in infants weighing less than 1,250 grams (2 lb 12 oz) at birth. This disorder results from the abnormal development of blood vessels in the retina. Blood vessel growth requires long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), especially DHA, a long-chain omega-3 PUFA. Long-chain omega-3s have been shown to reduce the area of damage and improve healthy blood vessel growth in this condition. We know they are essential to healthy visual function and are especially…

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Infants with Higher Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Have Fewer Illnesses

It is well known that infants born before term have a greater likelihood of developing illnesses and developing more slowly; the earlier the birth, the greater the health risks. There is growing evidence that preterm infants provided with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA) from breast milk or special infant formula have improved neurodevelopmental outcomes, such as visual acuity, growth or developmental scores. Breast-feeding is recommended, and if that is not possible, LC-PUFA-supplemented formula should be provided. In both term and preterm infants, healthy development is promoted if these fatty acids…

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