New research shows a possible connection between the risk of childhood obesity and maternal consumption of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy. Intake of the omega-3s found in seafood is also linked to reduced risk of recurrent breast cancer, stroke in women and early age-related macular degeneration (AMD). These findings and more are summarized in the April 2011 PUFA Newsletter and Fats of Life e-newsletters for health professionals and consumers, respectively.

A French study shows that the type of fat consumed during pregnancy may affect the child’s chance of becoming obese. Findings reported that the children of mothers who had higher omega-3 intakes during pregnancy had a 32% ower chance of becoming obese.

“This study is the first indication in humans that low intakes of omega-3s in the presence of large amounts of omega-6s during pregnancy might affect the chance of obesity in offspring,” said Joyce Nettleton, D.Sc., editor of the PUFA Newsletter and Fats of Life.

U.S. investigators looked at links between fish or omega-3 consumption and the recurrence of breast cancer and death in women previously treated for early-stage breast cancer. Findings showed that women with higher omega-3 intakes (73-365 mg/day) had a 25% less chance of additional breast cancer events. Women in the highest third of omega-3 consumption (153+ mg a day) were 40% less likely to have more breast cancer events, including death, compared with women in the lowest third.

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“While encouraging, these observations deserve caution as they can only show links, not causes,” Nettleton noted. “But they do mark omega-3s as potentially important in halting breast cancer progress.”

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In another U.S. study, researchers examined the intake of omega-3 fatty acids and development of early AMD in women. Those in the highest third of seafood omega-3 intakes were 40% less likely to develop early AMD compared with those in the lowest third of omega-3 intake.

Finally, Swedish investigators observed that the chance of women developing a stroke decreased with higher fish consumption. Those who ate fish twice or more per week were 16% less likely to develop a stroke compared with women who ate fish less often. Those who ate fish four or more times per week had an even lower chance (28%) of a stroke.

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