NMU – 204 Omega-3 Fat Supplementation (DHA) Decreases Risk of Early Preterm Births
Nutrition/Natural Medicine Update No 204 (May 26, 2021)
with Dr. James Meschino
Topic: Omega-3 Fat Supplementation (DHA) Decreases Risk of Early Preterm Births
Source: EClinicalMedicine May 2021 (a clinical journal of The Lancet)
A study published in EClinicalMedicine in May 2021 showed that supplementing pregnant women with a dose of 1,000 mg per day of the omega-3 fat known as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) cut their risk of having an early preterm birth by 50%. Early preterm birth, defined as birth before 34 weeks gestation, is a serious public health issue because these births result in the highest risk of infant mortality, and child disability. This study was a double-blind, randomized, multi-center trial, involving 1100 pregnant women, which yielded eye-opening results with major implications for new DHA intake guidelines for pregnant women. The researchers stated that, overall, women who received 1,000 mg of DHA supplementation during their pregnancy had fewer early preterm births. However, participants with low DHA levels at enrollment had half the rate of early preterm birth (2.0% compared to 4.1%) when they were given a supplement of 1000 mg compared with those given a DHA supplement containing only 200 mg during the last half of pregnancy. This is an important finding because many prenatal vitamins contain only 200 mg of DHA, and this is clearly inadequate for a large percentage of women who don’t routinely ingest sufficient DHA in the years leading up to their pregnancy or during pregnancy. In women who began the study with high DHA levels because they were already routinely taking higher doses of DHA, there was no further benefit to adding an additional 1,000 mg of DHA.
What’s critically important here is that studies show that many North American women consume very little DHA from food. Studies such as this one, suggest that women who are planning to get pregnant and women who become pregnant should increase their intake of DHA through supplementation to reduce the risk of early preterm birth and also to enhance brain development of the fetus in utero, as other studies have shown. In the words of co-author Dr. Carl P. Weiner MD, “This study is a potential game-changer for obstetricians and their patients.” Carl P. Weiner, M.D. is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and professor of integrative and molecular physiology at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, and a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy. He goes on to state, “the dramatic decrease in early preterm birth with DHA supplementation will improve short- and long-term outcomes for children, families, and society in a cost-effective fashion.” Dr. Carlson, another co-author of the study, notes that this information should be widely shared with women who are pregnant and those planning to become pregnant. “Women should be consulting with their doctor and getting their DHA levels tested to ensure they are taking the proper dose to prevent preterm birth,” she stated. Funding for the study was provided by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) U.S.A. The study is one more example where the use of targeted nutritional supplementation can improve outcomes for serious and common health concerns.
I have included the reference for this study in the text below.
Susan E Carlson, Byron J Gajewski, Christina J Valentine, Elizabeth H Kerling, Carl P Weiner, Michael Cackovic, Catalin S Buhimschi, Lynette K Rogers, Scott A Sands, Alexandra R Brown, Dinesh Pal Mudaranthakam, Sarah A Crawford, Emily A DeFranco. Higher dose docosahexaenoic acid supplementation during pregnancy and early preterm birth: A randomised, double-blind, adaptive-design superiority trial. EClinicalMedicine, 2021 https://www.thelancet.com/journals/eclinm/article/PIIS2589-5370(21)00185-1/fulltext
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