Food and Behaviour Research

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New Zealand women have suboptimal intakes of long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids during pregnancy - a cross sectional study

Eickstaedt M, Beck KL, Conlon CA (2017) N Z Med J.  2017 Sep ;130(1462):37-45. 37-45 

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To investigate dietary intakes and food sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids in New Zealand pregnant women.


Women (n=596) 16 years plus in trimester three of pregnancy completed an online food frequency questionnaire validated for omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids.


Estimated median [25th, 75th percentile] intakes of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids were: 1,300 [790, 2,120] mg/d alpha-linolenic acid (adequate intake 1,000mg/d); 220 [120, 520] mg/d total long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (adequate intake 115mg/d); and 110 [50, 250] mg/d docosahexaenoic acid (recommended 200mg/d). Only 30.9% of participants consumed more than 200mg/d docosahexaenoic acid. Participants taking omega-3 supplements (19.6%) were 16.5 times more likely to meet recommendations for docosahexaenoic acid. Fish and seafood were the main contributors to docosahexaenoic acid (84.8%) intakes, yet only 21.7% of women consumed fish at least twice per week. Intakes of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids were 11,580 [8,840, 15,760] mg/d linoleic acid (adequate intake 10,000mg/d) and 90 [60, 110] mg/d arachidonic acid (upper limit 800mg/d).


Most participants did not meet recommended intakes for docosahexaenoic acid, which may be partly due to low intakes of fish, seafood and omega-3 supplements.