Master of Science (MS)


School of Nutrition and Food Sciences

Document Type



Omega-3 fatty acids are well known to benefit pregnant women and infant outcomes. More women are entering pregnancy with excess weight which puts them at higher risk for complications such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and preterm delivery, amongst others. In the present study we assessed the omega-3 fatty acid (docosahexaenoic acid, DHA) status in overweight (BMI = 25.0 - 29.9 kg/m2) pregnant women of Louisiana. Age, ethnicity, weeks of pregnancy, weight, and length were recorded for each participant. Dietary intakes were assessed by repeated 24-h dietary recalls using the University of Minnesota Nutrient Data System for Research. Blood samples were collected at 16.5 - 20 weeks of pregnancy to evaluate red blood cells (RBC) fatty acids by gas chromatography. Pregnant women (n = 21) were 19 - 34 years of age; 62% were African Americans, 29% Caucasians, and 9% Hispanics; and 62% of the population had low socioeconomic status. On average, pregnant women consumed 72 ± 63 mg DHA/day; therefore, pregnant women were not meeting the recommended intake of at least 200 mg of DHA/day (p < 0.05). When including supplementation, only 38% met the recommended intake (p < 0.05). Using logistic regression analysis it was determined that age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status (p > 0.05) did not affect the probability of achieving the recommended DHA dietary intake for pregnant women. RBC DHA was 8.48 ± 1.39 wt%. African Americans had lower RBC DHA (7.98 ± 0.94 wt%) compared to Caucasians + Hispanics (9.29 ± 1.68 wt%) (p < 0.05). Multi-source regression analysis revealed that only ethnicity affected the RBC DHA wt%; (p < 0.05); whereas age, intake (diet + supplement), and SES did not (p > 0.05). Our data point to a need for nutrition education regarding the benefits of consuming DHA during pregnancy for pregnant women and women of childbearing ages.



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Committee Chair

Lammi-Keefe, Carol J.



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Life Sciences Commons