Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pregnancy, RD and Excess Omega-3 fatty Acids

My apologies to anyone checking my blog and wondering what the heck is going on. It's been a crazy few weeks. So, for now, a quick update and then a cool research study to discuss.

First: I passed my Registered Dietitian exam two weeks ago (Oct 5th). So now, after many long years in school and a year internship, I'm finally able to say that I'm a RD. Yay!
I was so nervous about the exam. I used two different study guides to help me pass, and thankfully, they worked! The exam was pretty tough and I didn't study as much as I should have, but... hey, it doesn't matter!!! I passed and can now officially practice nutrition and dietetics.

Second: My pregnancy is progressing along very nicely. I'm sitting at 18 weeks right now (due date, March 25, 2010) and looking more pregnant every day. It's amazing: some mornings I wake up and swear my belly has grown over-night.
I'm definitely now in maternity clothes, but am starting to appreciate the new curves I've developed. I try to just stay away from my non-maternity clothes because only a small handful (well, very small handful) of them still fit,,,, especially those that were tight around the bust or the belly.
I can't say I've felt the baby move yet, but I sure have seen it. One day this week when I was in the gym for example, my whole tummy was shifted towards the left and looked lop-sided. It was wild and very noticeable.

For training: my intensity went way up between weeks 12 and 16, but lately, it's been going back down again. I do try my hardest to kick my own butt in the gym, but sometimes my lungs don't want to catch up.

Tonight's workout was the following, which required 1+ minutes between sets:
Set A, three rounds, 10 reps:
A1) KB Front Squats - 35 lbs
A2) Cable crunches - 119 lbs
A3) Chain push-ups - 20 lb chain over my back.

Set B, four rounds, 40 seconds at each station, 15 seconds between each exercise. 2 min rest.
B1) KB Swings - 60 lbs
B2) Sandbag Pulls and Squats - 20 lbs
B3) Renegade Rows - 20 lbs each hand
B4) Tire Jumps (jump on a tire)
B5) Snatches - 55 lbs (45 lb oly bar plus 5 lbs each side)
** This was brutal... I was dying by the end, but it was a good dying :)

Tomorrow's workout will be something similar - about an hour of total work time, plus going for two walks with my doggies in the morning and night.

Third: I'm teaching 5 boot camps a week now and absolutely loving it.
  • Two through South Windsor CT Parks and Rec on Tuesday and Thursday nights at 645 pm.
  • Three through the gym I also personal train out of, Lightning Fitness, on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday mornings at 9am (the pics of our new gym with 3,000 sq ft aren't up yet, but will be soon).
If you live in the area, contact me and I can let you know more details.

I'm also teaching a nutrition course at the University of Connecticut, and enjoy it a lot. It's an undergrad course, but the students I teach are just fabulous and some of them really are in love with nutrition (I remember being in their shoes when I was an undergrad).

Finally: I'm looking to completely revamp my website with client testimonials (I do online and in person nutrition counseling), the magazine articles I've written, new services I offer and an upcoming e-book (about pregnancy, nutrition and exercise). I'll keep you posted with the details.

Now, a research update:

While perusing the literature on pregnancy and nutrition, I came across this series of interesting studies on omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil.

Abnormal neurological responses in young adult offspring caused by excess omega-3 fatty acid (fish oil) consumption by the mother during pregnancy and lactation.

Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2009 Jan-Feb;31(1):26-33. Epub 2008 Sep 16

Consuming omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3 FA) during pregnancy and lactation benefits fetal and infant brain development and might reduce the severity of preterm births by prolonging pregnancy. However, diets that are relatively rich in omega-3 FA can adversely affect fetal and infant development and the auditory brainstem response (ABR), a measure of brain development and sensory function. We previously examined the offspring of female rats fed excessive, adequate or deficient amounts of omega-3 FA during pregnancy and lactation. The 24-day-old offspring in the Excess group, compared to the Control group, had postnatal growth retardation and poor hearing acuity and prolonged neural transmission times as evidenced by the ABR. The Deficient group was intermediate. The current study followed these offspring to see if these poor outcomes persisted into young adulthood. Based on prior findings, we hypothesized that the Excess and Deficient offspring would "catch-up" to the Control offspring by young adulthood. Female Wistar rats received one of the three diet conditions from day 1 of pregnancy through lactation. The three diets were the Control omega-3 FA condition (omega-3/omega-6 ratio approximately 0.14), the Excess omega-3 FA condition (omega-3/omega-6 ratio approximately 14.0) and Deficient omega-3 FA condition (omega-3/omega-6 ratio approximately 0% ratio). The Control diet contained 7% soybean oil; whereas the Deficient and Excess omega-3 FA diets contained 7% safflower oil and 7% fish oil, respectively. One male and female offspring per litter were ABR-tested as young adults using tone pip stimuli of 2, 4, 8 and 16 kHz. The postnatal growth retardation and prolonged neural transmission times in the Excess and Deficient pups had dissipated by young adulthood. In contrast, the Excess group had elevated ABR thresholds (hearing loss) at all tone pip frequencies in comparison to the Control and Deficient groups. The Deficient group had worse ABR thresholds than the Control group in response to the 8 kHz tone pips only. The Excess group also had ABR amplitude-intensity profiles suggestive of hyperacusis. These results are consistent with the Barker hypothesis concerning the fetal and neonatal origins of adult diseases. Thus, consuming diets that are excessively rich or deficient in omega-3 FA during pregnancy and lactation seems inadvisable because of risks for long-lasting adverse effects on brain development and sensory function.

From Me: After reading through this study, the authors described similar situations occurring in human women and their offspring from excess omega-3 fatty acid consumption. It seems that the exact dose in humans to achieve this same effect in you or I is not the main issue, but rather the issue is the ratio of omega-3 fats to omega-6s.

Yes, omega-3s are beneficial, but from this line of work, and others, you can really get too much of a good thing, especially from fish oil.

In order to prevent harm to your baby/fetus/child, keep the fish oil to a reasonable dose: 1 to 2 grams of omega-3s per day (from 3 to 6 capsules of fish oil) is often enough to show benefits for your infant. If your diet is quite high in total fat, you could use a bit more omega-3 to balance out the omega-6. A good ratio appears to be a ratio of about 7:1 to 3:1 of omega-6 to omega-3. Any more than that might likely lead to negative consequences.

In health, Cassandra (and baby)


Larissa in San Antonio said...

Awesome workout! Very inspiring! I wish I had known more about lifting while pregnant when I was pregnant with my three daughters. It's taken me months of intense lifting to get my lower back strong again and to have the leg strength to do squats with my almost 30 lb daughter when i'm cleaning around the house and she won't let me put her down! And just a side note, I won the leg press competition (female division) at my university! who says moms can't lift? :)

Hiit Mama said...

Congratulations on your RD. I wonder if you have thoughts or opinions that stray from the mainstream nutrition teachings about fats and carbs.

Thanks for the fish oil information. I've been taking 2-3 grams a day for years. I can be a bit excessive - if a little is good a lot must be better. Good thing too much oil makes me sick - this information will certainly keep me in moderation mode.

Cassandra Forsythe said...

Hi Larissa! Wow! Congrats on your leg-press win! That's great! Did you get video of it? I'd love to see :)

Hi Hiit Mamma, Thank you!
Oh, yes, my thoughts absolutely stray from the mainstream teachings. The text I teach out of wants me to tell the kids that fat is bad and carbs are great.... I'm not doing that though.
Glad to know the fish oil info was informative!

UofMWolverine81 said...


While DHA is also critical for developing infants, can a test like the one in the following link be useful for people trying to determine if current fat intake is sufficiently balanced (particularly in a situation like pregnancy, since that is what the research you mentioned was in relation to)?

I also wanted to ask you a quick question about your training, specifically inclusion of cable crunches. I'd be interested in hearing your general thoughts for using these (given the focus on cutting out most flexion movements these days), particularly as it relates to the postural challenges of pregnancy and also your spinal condition (was it spondylolisthesis? If so, I am just curious if you notice any positive impact, since that is an extension-based issue). If I recall (hopefully correctly) you say you ride a more upright bike because the hunched-over riding position is rather intolerable, so this is largely what prompted the cable crunch question.

Congratulations on your many years of study starting to bear professional fruit, and I wish you, your husband, and your eloping baby all the best both now and well into the future. You're always a first-class person, and you deserve nothing but wonderful things in this life.

Cassandra Forsythe said...

Hi UofM:

1) That blood test isn't that accurate. I did both that and the Omega-3 Index for my dissertation and the Omega-3 Index is a much better indicator of omega-3 status than the AA/EPA ratio. Work by Harris on pubmed will give you more info on this. :)

2) Yes, chronic flexion does bother my spine. You are correct. But, with this baby starting to pull me more and more into hyperextension, I sometimes throw in some partial ab flexion exercises to counteract the forces being exerted on me. Also, per McGill, one of his main exercises is partial crunches to bring the spine back to neutral. When I do the cable crunches, I do them more in a neutral partial crunch position than a full-on flex. Also, most of my core work is focused on neutral spine positioning rather than flexion. But, I really love your question and glad I was able to clarify. Thank you!!!