What is the problem and who does it affect?
Children of women who are overweight or obese during pregnancy are more likely to have problems with excess weight, high blood pressure, and diabetes later in life.
The Fish Oil in Pregnancy Study was a randomised controlled trial that assessed whether taking fish oil might help prevent these problems. Preliminary data showed that mothers who took the fish oil and their 3-month-old babies had lower levels of fats in their blood, suggesting that their metabolism was improved.
What is this project hoping to achieve?
Dr Ben Albert, from the University of Auckland, is leading this project, which aims to understand the potential effects of fish-oil supplementation on children in the longer term.
The team will follow the children up to 3 years of age to examine their growth, development and metabolism. This detailed tracking of their growth will also allow researchers to look at how early life factors (such as the composition of breastmilk) influence growth and metabolism in early childhood.
The findings from these studies could help prevent obesity and the associated health problems in children and subsequently, adults, if it is identified that fish-oil supplementation would give them a healthier start to life.
The results could potentially inform practical interventions to prevent the long-term impacts of overweight and obesity in pregnancy.
Importantly, a qualitative study led by an experienced Māori researcher will help better understand enablers and barriers to the engagement of Māori and Pasifika women in clinical trials. This will help address an important area of health inequity, since Māori and Pacific people suffer a greater burden of weight-related problems and are poorly served by the NZ health system – as a result, they would likely benefit the most from safe and highly acceptable preventive treatments.
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