Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Contribution of fish to intakes of micronutrients important for fetal development: a dietary survey of pregnant women in the Republic of Seychelles

Maxine P Bonhama1 c1, Emeir M Duffya1, Paula J Robsona1, Julie M Wallacea1, Gary J Myersa2, Philip W Davidsona3, Tom W Clarksona4, Conrad F Shamlayea5, JJ Straina1 and M Barbara E Livingstonea1

a1 Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health (NICHE), Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine BT52 1SA, UK

a2 Division of Child Neurology, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY, USA

a3 Strong Centre for Developmental Disabilities, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY, USA

a4 Department of Environmental Medicine, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA

a5 Ministry of Health, Victoria, Mahé, Republic of Seychelles

Abstract

Objectives To characterise the diets of pregnant women in the Republic of Seychelles and to determine the contribution of fish to intakes of nutrients important for fetal and neonatal development.

Design Observational, prospective study.

Setting Seychelles Child Development Centre, Mahé, Republic of Seychelles.

Subjects and methods Pregnant women (n 300) were recruited at their first visit to an antenatal clinic. At 28 weeks’ gestation subjects completed a 4 d diet diary (n 273) and intakes were analysed using dietary analysis software.

Results Mean (sd) energy intake was 9·0 (2·5) MJ/d and fat intakes were higher than UK recommendations for almost two-thirds of the cohort. Fish consumption was lower than in previous surveys, suggesting a move towards a more Westernised diet. Low intakes of a number of nutrients important during pregnancy for fetal development (Fe, Zn, Se and iodine) were observed. However, women who met the current recommendations for these nutrients consumed significantly more fish than those who did not (97 v. 73 g/d).

Conclusions The present study highlights the importance of fish in the diet of pregnant Seychellois women for ensuring adequate intakes of micronutrients important in fetal development. Dietary patterns in Seychelles, however, are in a state of transition, with a move towards a Western-style diet as evidenced by higher fat and lower fish intakes. If these dietary trends continue and fish consumption declines further, micronutrient status may be compromised. These findings suggest caution in establishing public health policies that promote limitation of fish intake during pregnancy.

(Received February 20 2008)

(Accepted September 16 2008)

Correspondence

c1 Corresponding author: Email mp.bonham@ulster.ac.uk

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