Prenatal DHA reduces early preterm birth, low birth weight

Mon, 02/25/2013

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Karen Henry
Life Span Institute
785-864-0756

LAWRENCE — University of Kansas researchers have found that the infants of mothers who were given 600 milligrams of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA during pregnancy weighed more at birth and were less likely to be very low birth weight and born before 34 weeks gestation than infants of mothers who were given a placebo. This result greatly strengthens the case for using the dietary supplement during pregnancy.

Susan CarlsonThe results are from the first five years of a 10-year, double-blind randomized controlled trial to be published in the April issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is also available online. A followup of this sample of infants is ongoing to determine whether prenatal DHA nutritional supplementation will benefit children’s intelligence and school readiness.

“A reduction in early preterm and very low birth weight delivery could have clear clinical and public health significance,” said Susan Carlson, A.J. Rice Professor of Dietetics and Nutrition at the KU Medical Center, who directed the study with John Colombo, KU professor of psychology and director of the Life Span Institute.

John Colombo“We believe that supplementing U.S. women with DHA could safely increase mean birth weight and gestational age to numbers that are closer to other developed countries such as Norway and Australia,” she said.

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) occurs naturally in cell membranes with the highest levels in brain cells, but levels can be increased by diet or supplements. An infant obtains DHA from his or her mother in utero and postnatally from human milk, but the amount received depends upon the mother’s DHA status.

“U.S. women typically consume less DHA than women in most of the developed world,” said Carlson.

During the first five years of the study, children of women enrolled in the study received multiple developmental assessments at regular intervals throughout infancy and at 18 months of age. In the next phase of the study, the children will receive twice-yearly assessments until they are 6 years old. The researchers will measure developmental milestones that occur in later childhood and are linked to lifelong health and welfare.

Previous research has established the effects of postnatal feeding of DHA on infant cognitive and intellectual development, but DHA is accumulated most rapidly in the fetal brain during pregnancy, said Colombo. “That’s why we are so interested in the effects of DHA taken prenatally, because we will really be able to see how this nutrient affects development over the long term.”

The study is funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. See past news on this research here.



Did you know the Spooner-Thayer Art Museum was KU’s first art museum? It opened more than 50 years before the Spencer Museum of Art that we know today. Learn more here: http://bit.ly/1oKmgXn Tags: Spencer Museum of Art #KUtbt #TBT #KUdiscoveries #Art #Museum #Gallery #VisualArt Photo credit: University Archives in Spencer Research Library.

Poet offers insights to Jayhawk experience through wordplay "Welcome to KU. Where questions rest, in stacks of answers from the past. …" Listen to Topher Enneking, a spoken word poet and former KU football player, as he weaves the experience of KU and its traditions through this storytelling and wordplay performance. Learn more about KU traditions at http://www.ku.edu/about/traditions/. Welcome to KU. Where questions rest in stacks of answers from the past. Where dreams crawl out of bed And learn to walk Uphill both ways. Where freshmen stand on stilts And hang from the rafters, While the wheat waves In a fieldhouse Where the Phog rolls in Helping us to see Through the past into the future. Haunting hosts giving handouts in a heritage Too heavy to grasp til you add to it. So it may be born anew, Allowing our boots to stand in the ash of oppression’s hate But shine bright as the sun While war cries of warriors past Ring in our ears long after their battles are won. Memorials telling time, “you don’t have to stand still.” Because the top of the world Is just up that Hill. Where our natural history is an awe-struck echo Of world’s fair and equal Past, present and future, prelude and sequel. Where our flags fly above planes. Where we build in chalks that can’t be erased. Stone edifices made to last So you would walk Past their doors, down their halls And let your voice fill their room. Because only in empty silence can destruction loom. So stand tall. Wrap your arms around this crowd Sing our alma mater and sing it out loud. Let your voice sing in chorus and reach other nations Beckoning new Jayhawks to spark new collaborations Because you are the mortar that will hold these walls upright. Your future Your dreams are why Jayhawks did fight For the tradition before you Was merely prelude For what will come next now that you’re at KU.


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