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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Maternal n-3 fatty acids and early infant outcomes Friesen, Russell Warren


Research indicates maternal docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) status during pregnancy is positively associated with infant neurodevelopment. Dietary deficiency, if present, usually occurs at the lower end of the intake distribution. Both DHA intake and the current intakes of other n-3 and n-6 fatty acids may affect risk of deficiency. Regardless, the maternal dietary intakes, and biochemical markers, or infant developmental scores indicative of maternal DHA deficiency are not defined. The objectives of this research are to determine the distribution of DHA intakes, the relationship between dietary DHA and n-6 fatty acid intakes and maternal red blood cell (RBC) phospholipid DHA, and whether or not maternal DHA status low enough to increase risk of poor infant development occurs in our community. This study was a prospective, randomized intervention study involving supplementation of healthy women from 16 weeks gestation to delivery of their infant with 400 mg/d DHA or placebo. Maternal dietary intakes and blood lipid DHA were measured at 16 and 36 weeks gestation, and infant visual acuity was assessed at 60 d of age. The results show DHA intake was skewed, and maternal dietary n-6 fatty acids were inversely, while DHA intake was positively related to levels of maternal RBC EPG DHA, P<0.05. Infant gender and maternal DHA supplementation were significantly related to infant visual acuity. More infant girls in the placebo than DHA supplementation group had a visual acuity below the group average for infant girls, P<0.05. Maternal RBC EPG 22:4n-6 at 36 weeks gestation was inversely related to infant visual acuity at 60 d of age, P<0.05. In conclusion the results suggest that DHA deficiency is present among pregnant women in our community and that maternal dietary n-6 fatty acid intake may be an important modifier of maternal DHA status.

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