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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Little Rock, Arkansas » Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #209157

Title: Inadequate Maternal Docosahexaenoic Acid Intake in Lactating Women

Author
item SMITH, STACEE
item GILCHRIST, JANET
item BADGER, THOMAS

Submitted to: Journal Of The American Dietetic Association
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/15/2007
Publication Date: 9/15/2007
Citation: Smith, S., Gilchrist, J.M., Badger, T.M. 2007. Inadequate maternal docosahexaenoic acid intake in lactating women [abstract]. Journal of The American Dietetic Association. 107(8):A111.

Interpretive Summary: DHA has been shown to impact infant brain and eye development. Maternal DHA intake impacts the fatty acid composition of breast milk. Many American women do not consume much fatty fish, which is the best source of omega-3. Women tend to limit their intake because of mercury fears. The FDA/EPA have also told pregnant and nursing women to limit their seafood intake to 12 ounces per week because of these same concerns. If fatty fish intake is low, mothers' breast milk may not meet the needs of their infant. We obtained multiple 24-hour dietary recalls from 85 mothers. Maternal DHA intake was compared to the current Adequate Intake (AI, 300 mg/d). Few mothers (4%) met the AI. Intakes were higher among women who consumed a DHA supplement (~240 mg/d) than those who did not (~53 mg/d). Nursing mothers who do not meet the AI may not meet the developmental needs of their infants. Following FDA/EPA guidelines does not promise the mothers will get enough DHA. Nursing mother should be encouraged to consume fatty fish as directed by the FDA/EPA and supplement when necessary.

Technical Abstract: Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are essential for infant neural and retinal development. Maternal DHA intake impacts the fatty acid composition of breast milk. Many American women do not regularly consume fatty fish, which is the primary source of omega-3. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have advised pregnant and nursing women to limit their seafood intake to a varied 12 ounces per week because of the high levels of the neurotoxin mercury found in some fish. If lactating women drastically limit fatty fish intake, their milk may not meet the needs of their infants, even with maternal supplementation. We obtained multiple 24-hour dietary recalls from healthy lactating women (N= 85) using Nutrition Data Systems for Research software. Maternal DHA intake was compared to the current AI (300 mg/d). Very few (4%) in our sample met the AI, although intakes were higher among women (n=7) who consumed a DHA supplement (239.9+/-105.9 mg/d) than those who did not (53.2+/-90 mg/d, p = 0.0003). The most common dietary sources of DHA were: salmon, catfish, tuna, shrimp, and eggs. Nursing mothers who do not meet the AI may not meet the needs of their breast fed infants, which may have future implications on their development. Following the FDA/EPA guideline does not guarantee that nursing mothers will meet the AI. Registered Dietitians should encourage nursing mothers to consume fatty fish as endorsed by the FDA/EPA, and when necessary to supplement with DHA.