News - Omega 3 levels in pregnancy linked to childhood obesity
A low intake of omega 3 fatty acids, such as those found in oily fish, in addition to a presence of large amounts of omega 6 has been suggested to be a risk factor in the development of obesity. Now a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition provides the first evidence in humans that adequate intake of omega 3 fatty acids during pregnancy may lower the risk of childhood obesity.
The study examined the relationship between the type of fat a mother consumed at mid-pregnancy and whether her child was obese at age 3. Dietary intake of fatty acids was assessed in a group of 1120 pregnant women, while 227 women had their blood levels of fatty acids tested and 302 their umbilical cord levels. Skin fold and BMI measurements were then used to determine incidence of obesity once the children were age 3.
When the results were analysed, the researchers found that higher intakes of the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA during pregnancy were associated with lower risks of childhood obesity. The umbilical cord data supported these findings, showing that a high omega 6:3 ratio in the cord plasma was linked to higher skin fold and BMI readings and an increased risk of childhood obesity.
Interestingly, the study also found that while one fifth of expectant mothers ate more than two fish meals per week at mid-pregnancy, only about half of these women achieved the recommend intake of 200mg DHA per day. The authors said that such an observation suggests although pregnant women ate fish, they did not consume enough of the species known to contain high amounts of DHA, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel.
Donahue SM et al. Prenatal fatty acid status and child adiposity at age 3 y: results from a US pregnancy cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Apr;93(4):780-8.