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Preterm birth occurs in 5%–13% of pregnancies. It is a leading cause of perinatal mortality and morbidity and has adverse long-term consequences for the health of the child.  Selenium is a trace mineral that can interact with a number of risk factors associated with preterm birth, and has been implicated in pregnancy outcome.

Maternal risk factors for preterm birth include a previous preterm delivery, black race, low socioeconomic status, poor nutrition, infection that triggers an inflammatory response.  Endocrine conditions such as diabetes and dysfunction of the thyroid have also been associated with preterm birth.

Selenium plays a role in attenuating inflammation.  Low selenium status has been identified in women with preeclampsia.  It was hypothesized that low maternal selenium status during early gestation would increase the risk of preterm birth.

In a large cohort prospective study, 1129 women with a singleton pregnancy were followed from the 12th weeks of gestation to delivery.  Deliveries were classified as preterm or term, and preterm births.  Serum concentrations of selenium were measured during the 12th week of pregnancy.

Among the 1129 study participants, 60 women (5.3%) had a preterm birth, 21 had premature rupture of the membranes and 13 had preeclampsia. The serum selenium concentration at 12 weeks’ gestation was significantly lower among women who had a preterm birth than among those who delivered at term.  Women who have the lowest serum concentration of selenium had twice the risk of preterm birth as women who have higher serum selenium concentration, even after adjustment for the occurrence of preeclampsia.

The study shows that having low serum selenium at the end of the first trimester was related to preterm birth and was independent of the mother having preeclampsia. Low maternal selenium status during early gestation may increase the risk of preterm premature rupture of the membranes, which is a major cause of preterm birth.

Source:
Margaret P. Rayman DPhil et al; CMAJ 2011 Mar 22; 183(5):549-55.

Although 70% Alaskan Eskimos are overweight or obese, they did not show the same risk factors for heart disease as the US population.  They also had a lower prevalence of diabetes.  The latest study suggested that an Omega-3 rich diet may offer protection against some of the harmful effects of obesity.

It has been known that Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with favorable, and obesity with unfavorable, concentrations of chronic disease risk biomarkers.

In a cross-sectional study, the researchers analyzed data from 330 people living in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta region of south-west Alaska, who typically consume around 20 times as much omega-3 fats from fish as the average American.  They have similar overweight and obesity levels to those in the US overall but their prevalence of type 2 diabetes is significantly lower, at 3.3% versus 7.7%.

The researchers examined whether high eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acid intakes, measured as percentages of total red blood cell (RBC) fatty acids, modify associations of obesity with chronic disease risk biomarkers.

The study found that those with the highest levels of the omega-3 fish oils docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid had the lowest triglyceride and C-reactive protein levels.  High RBC EPA and DHA were associated with attenuated dyslipidemia and low-grade systemic inflammation among overweight and obese persons. This may help inform recommendations for Omega-3 fatty acid intakes in the reduction of obesity-related disease risk.

Source:
Z Makhoul et al; European Journal of Clinical Nutrition; advance online publication 23 March 2011; doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2011.39

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