By: Talking Nutrition Editors
The US faces an urgent maternal and infant health crisis, with over 10% of babies being born too early. Premature birth is when infants are born before the 37th week of pregnancy, which may lead to dangerous immediate and long-lasting health consequences for babies. National statistics indicate that preterm birth rates have hit at least a 14-year high and are a leading cause of infant mortality in the US.1 Read on to find out how the dsm-firmenich Every Day Counts campaign is addressing the issue of rising preterm birth rates.
Inadequate nutrient levels among women of childbearing age are common worldwide. Women’s nutritional needs change with age and are elevated during pregnancy.iii Key nutrients, such as omega-3 DHA, offer significant health benefits for both mothers and babies, and dietary supplements provide a convenient and effective way to support nutritional status. However, many healthcare professionals do not recommend DHA supplements, possibly due to a lack of awareness. To bridge this knowledge gap and kickstart our Every Day Counts campaign, we hosted a Maternal Health Event in Washington DC, bringing together influential members of Congress. The event served as a platform to advocate for new legislation to support improved access to high-quality prenatal DHA supplementation for all women of childbearing age and continue to raise health care practitioner awareness and recommendations. During the event, experts from various sectors presented insightful perspectives and expertise including:
Toni Farinella, Region Lead Early Life Nutrition & Nutrition Improvement Segments at dsm-firmenich, comments: “As a leader in Early Life Nutrition, dsm-firmenich is dedicated to delivering groundbreaking innovation to promote the optimal health and development of infants and mothers. We are committed to supporting their well-being from preconception and throughout the motherhood journey. Our recent event in Washington DC shed light on the significance of maternal health in providing babies with the best possible start in life. We also raised awareness about the alarming rates of premature births in the US, which recently received a disappointing D+ score from the March of Dimesiv and we highlighted the essential role of DHA in this context. The event was a significant milestone, gathering interest and support from both the House of Representatives and the Senate.”
DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid primarily found in fish, is well-known for its benefits for heart and brain health. v,vi Lately, its importance in maternal health has also been recognized.7 During the event in Washington DC, Dr. Carlson presented the latest findings to support increasing DHA intake as a method to reduce the risk of preterm birth. High-quality evidence from a meta-analysis indicates that DHA supplementation can reduce preterm birth (<37 weeks) by 11% and early preterm birth (<34 weeks) by 42%.vii More recent findings have demonstrated that daily high dose DHA (~1000mg) can decrease the rates of preterm birth and early preterm birth by around half compared to a lower dose of 200mg.2 In addition, high-dose DHA had a greater impact in women with low baseline DHA intake.6 dsm-firmenich designed an electronic version of a validated food frequency questionnaire used in Dr. Carlson’s clinical studies to identify pregnant women with low DHA intake. Assess your DHA intake with the questionnaire available on everydaycounts.com.viii
Christopher Shanahan from Frost and Sullivan presented findings from a health economic study that highlighted the significant financial burden associated with premature births. The average cost of a preterm birth in the US in 2021, including neonatal care costs, productivity losses, and lifetime disability management costs, totaled $113,969.ix This equated to $34.5 billion for the total population cost of all preterm births in 2021.x Given the findings of a recent meta-analysis on the efficacy of omega-3 supplementation for preterm birth risk reduction, Christopher estimates that the use of omega-3 by all expectant mothers could lead to 40,568 avoidable preterm births including 32,240 avoidable early preterm births per year.xi Christopher’s analysis indicates that algal omega-3 DHA could lower the costs attributed to early births, saving the US $67 billion from 2023 to 2030. As such, advocating for DHA will benefit society beyond health, having positive social and economic implications.
Kristen Finn, Lead Scientist Early Life Nutrition at dsm-firmenich Nutritional Products, comments on what the industry can do to educate and inform consumers about DHA: “Brands can align with key experts in nutrition science and medicine that are knowledgeable about DHA and its role in preterm birth risk reduction. They can sponsor symposiums at scientific and medical conferences to reach a broad range of healthcare professionals and utilize their scientific delegates to engage specific healthcare workers. Industry players can also support initiatives to establish a dietary reference value for DHA, update existing recommendations for DHA during pregnancy, and advocate for policies that increase access to DHA supplements for pregnant women”.
Toni Farinella concludes: “As awareness of DHA grows, new opportunities will emerge for companies in the early life nutrition and maternal nutrition sectors. With the support of our government and the healthcare practitioner community, we can enhance access to high-quality prenatal DHA supplementation and foster a greater emphasis on innovation in this vital field.”
Want to know more about preterm birth and the role of omega-3 fatty acids? Find out more at everydaycounts.com
26 May 2023
5 min read