Food and Behaviour Research

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Omega-3 fatty acid intake during pregnancy and risk of infant maltreatment: a nationwide birth cohort - the Japan Environment and Children's Study

Matsumura K, Hamazaki K, Tsuchida A, Inadera H, Japan Environment and Children's Study (JECS) Group (2021) Psychological Medicine Jun 25;1-10 doi: 10.1017/S0033291721002427 


Background: Intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) has favorable effects, including reducing violent and aggressive behaviors, but its association with infant maltreatment is unknown. We therefore tested the hypothesis that maternal intake of omega-3 PUFAs is associated with a lower risk of infant maltreatment.

Methods: Participants were 92 191 mothers involved in the ongoing Japan Environment and Children's Study. Omega-3 PUFA intake during pregnancy was measured using a food frequency questionnaire. Infant maltreatment was assessed using a self-reported questionnaire administered at 1 and 6 months postpartum.

Results: Analysis using the lowest quintile of intake as a reference revealed that the adjusted odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for cases of 'hitting' decreased as quintiles increased, with values for the second to fifth quintiles of 0.93 (95% CI 0.77-1.13), 0.79 (95% CI 0.64-0.97), 0.78 (95% CI 0.64-0.96), and 0.72 (95% CI 0.59-0.89), respectively. Adjusted ORs (95% CIs) for 'shaking very hard' at 6 months were 0.87 (0.73-1.04), 0.81 (0.67-0.97), 0.73 (0.61-0.89), and 0.78 (0.65-0.94), respectively. Adjusted ORs for 'leaving alone at home' for the second to fifth quintiles were 0.92 (0.87-0.98), 0.91 (0.86-0.97), 0.94 (0.88-0.99), and 0.85 (0.80-0.90), respectively.

Conclusions: Higher maternal intake of omega-3 PUFAs during pregnancy was associated with fewer cases of hitting and violent shaking and leaving the child alone at home, implying a lower risk of infant maltreatment. Our results indicate the potential applicability of omega-3 PUFAs in reducing infant maltreatment.