Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA provide a variety of health benefits for expectant mothers, including promoting healthy brain and eye development in their babies. The problem, say researchers in Canada, is that women who are pregnant and nursing simply aren’t eating enough of these healthy fats.
Using data from the long-term Alberta Pregnancy Outcomes and Nutrition (APRON) study, scientists from the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary were able to determine recently that less than 30 percent of pregnant women and only a quarter of new mothers are consuming the daily amount of Omega-3s recommended by leading health experts—typically at least 500 mg total Omega-3 fats, including at least 200 mg of DHA.
The ongoing study involves more than 2,000 women and centers on the relationship between maternal nutrition and healthy child development. For this particular research, scientists focused on just under a third of the participants and found that regardless of income, location, and other factors, the majority of women failed to get enough beneficial Omega-3s in their diets. When they did consume the beneficial fats, they came mostly from seafood—salmon in particular.
Interestingly, pregnant and nursing women who reported taking a DHA fish oil supplement were up to 11 percent more likely to meet the daily Omega-3 recommendations. Researchers hope the results of the study, published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, will increase awareness about the benefits of Omega-3s during and after pregnancy.
The noise, the traffic, the constant hustle and bustle—if you’ve ever lived in a big city, you know how stressful it can be. In fact, studies have shown that city dwellers are typically more stressed out than their rural counterparts, causing physical changes in the brain that can lead to significant mental health damage as well as heart problems over time. On a positive note, Penn State University researchers believe providing “green spaces” may be part of the solution.
A green space is created when an area of undeveloped urban land (such as an empty lot) is cleared and beautified with trees, shrubs, flowers, and other greenery to provide a communal space for people to enjoy. In addition to the environmental benefits—including improved air and water quality, cooler temperatures, and reduced soil erosion—scientists are finding several human health benefits associated with green spaces, particularly when it comes to heart health.
The Penn State scientists recently conducted a study in which a group of people (wearing heart rate monitors equipped with GPS trackers) were asked to walk through their neighborhood before and after it had been renovated to include urban green spaces, and they found that simply strolling through the beautified areas had a positive impact on overall heart rate. Specifically, researchers saw a net heartbeat drop of approximately 15 beats per minute (bpm).
Why the change of heart, so to speak? Possibly because the restored areas made residents feel safer, but more likely because the green spaces had an overall calming effect—an effect seen in previous studies that have linked spending time in nature with reduced stress and improved mood. According to senior author Dr. Charles Branas in a recent press release, “This research on greening urban lots provides an important scientific impetus for urban planners and city officials to take relatively low-cost steps toward improving health for their residents.”