University of Calgary

APrON study

September 24, 2009

APrON study seeks help from pregnant women

Bonnie Kaplan
Bonnie Kaplan
The Alberta Pregnancy Outcomes and Nutrition team (APrON) is seeking 10,000 expectant mothers in Calgary and Edmonton to take part in a study that’s a first in Canada. Bonnie Kaplan is leading the Alberta‐wide team in a five‐year study funded by the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR).

“Nutrition is fundamental to the health of moms and their babies, but there is surprisingly little research into nutrition, brain development and mental health,” says Kaplan, a professor of paediatrics and community health sciences at the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine.

“Our dream is that this research will reveal ways to help us prevent post‐partum depression as well as developmental disorders such as ADHD.”

The $5-million study is investigating what pregnant women are eating before and after their babies are born, as well as the relationship between their nutrient status, their mental health, and their babies’ brain development and overall health.

“There’s not much information out there about what pregnant women should be doing, foodwise,” says Calgarian Stacey McCormick, APrON’s first participant. McCormick found that during both her pregnancies, she struggled with the balance between tackling nausea and eating properly to stay healthy. McCormick’s daughter Avery is 15 months old, and her second baby is due at the end of November. “I look forward to seeing the scientific evidence from this study. I would love to see a huge nutrition section in the maternity reference books,” McCormick says.

Participants will provide information on what they eat, their activities and exercise, as well as their mental health. APrON researchers will also do a DNA profile on moms, dads and babies to assess genetic factors at play in the babies’ development. The researchers will also take blood samples to measure the nutrients in the mothers’ and babies’ blood to pinpoint the omega‐3 fatty acids.

“We expect this study to transform our understanding of the balance between genetics, nutrition and health,” says AHFMR co‐leader Catherine Field, RD, PhD, a professor in the Alberta Diabetes Institute at the University of Alberta Faculty of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences. “I am hopeful that we will make nutritional discoveries as important to women and infant health as the role of folic acid in reducing the risk of spina bifida.”

“Previous studies have shown that maternal depression leads to poor physical and emotional health in newborns, and of course, it takes a significant toll on the mother’s own health,” says Kaplan, a founding member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute for Child and Maternal Health. “Imagine if we could get ahead of post‐partum depression, and prevent it.”

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