In recent years there is growing interest on the role of long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 LC-PUFA) in pregnancy and the growth and development of the offspring.

We aim to characterize and provide baseline data on the intake of LCPUFA (omega-3 and omega-6) in a prospective cohort of 829 pregnant Indian women and report associations between LCPUFA intake and erythrocyte membrane phospholipid fatty acid concentration in a sub-group at baseline (1st trimester), the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy.

The dietary intake of all the macronutrients and of alpha-linolenic acid(ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) significantly increased over the 3 trimesters of pregnancy while that of omega-6 fatty acids (FA) remained unchanged.

Median omega-3 FA intakes of ALA, EPA and DHA, however, were on average low at 0.56, 0.003 and 0.011 g/d, respectively while LA was 14.6 g/d during pregnancy. Consequently, the intake ratio of ALA to LA in the women in the present study was very low at 1:26. A significant decline in erythrocyte membrane arachidonic acid (AA) concentration but not of DHA was observed throughout pregnancy. This might be due to increased efficiency in terms of elongation of parent omega-3 FA.

Dietary methods for improving the consumption of omega-3 FA need to be considered in the diets of young women as well as during pregnancy. As newborns primarily depend on placental transfer of omega-3 FA there is need to examine the omega-3 LC-PUFA concentration in infants of mother's with low intakes of omega-3 FA.