$5,000,000 to Study Prenatal Nutrition and Mood

Researchers in Canada have been awarded $5,000,000 to study how mother’s nutrition impacts her mental health and her children. The team of researchers looking at this question is called Alberta Pregnancy Outcomes and Nutrition team, or APRON.“There’s been an explosion of research around the world on nutrition and brain function,” says APRON team co-leader Dr. Bonnie Kaplan from the University of Calgary. “And it’s not just research-people are being treated successfully with various nutritional interventions. This needs to be explored further. We need to understand the relationship between nutritional inadequacy and depression in women before and after birth. We need to look at maternal nutrition and the brain development of children. We have an incredible opportunity to do this in Alberta.”

The APRON team is composed of 16 researchers from the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta, and the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands. The team includes such health professionals as dietitians, psychologists, and physicians, as well as young people who are training in these areas. “With direct links to the health professionals of today and tomorrow, we have the opportunity to translate new understanding about maternal nutrition into action that improves maternal and infant health,” says Dr. Kaplan.

Insights into mood disorders in mothers and the health of their babies will come from a study involving 10,000 pregnant women in Calgary and Edmonton (5,000 from each city). The work involves complete assessments of maternal mood and maternal nutrition, as well as of the neurodevelopment of the child from infancy to age three. Nutrition will be evaluated from reports of what individuals eat, and also from measurements of the levels of various nutrients in their blood.

“The information we collect will be a rich database not only for our team but for future researchers,” Dr. Field points out.

The team will ask questions in three main areas: women’s mental health, birth, and child development.

“In [the area of] women’s mental health, we’ve known for a long time that many women struggle with depression after birth,” notes Dr. Kaplan. “The latest research shows that some women experience altered mood during pregnancy-and not just women with a history of depression. So we will be looking at maternal mood throughout pregnancy and after childbirth. There are hints in the literature that nutritional insufficiency contributes [negatively] to maternal mood. We hope that we’ll be able to understand more about this connection.”


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