BACKGROUND: Adverse neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric outcomes have been established as signs of nutrient deficiencies and may be applicable to insufficient dietary intakes of omega-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids (n-3 HUFAs).

OBJECTIVE: Consider if statistical definitions for Daily Reference Intakes can be applied to n-3 HUFAs intakes during pregnancy for maternal and neurodevelopmental deficiencies.

DESIGN: Data were prospectively collected from women during pregnancy and children up to age 8 years participating in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Statistical analyses took social and lifestyle factors into account.

RESULTS: During pregnancy, n-3 HUFA intakes from seafood that putatively meet statistical definitions of an estimated average requirement ranged from 0.05 to 0.06en% (111-139mg/d/2000Cal) for suboptimal fine motor control at 42m and 0.065-0.08en% (114-181mg/d/2000Cal) for suboptimal verbal IQ at age 8 years and 0.18-0.22en% (389-486mg/d/2000Cal) for maternal depression at 32 weeks. Intakes of n-3 ranging from 0.2 to 0.41en% (445-917mg/d/2000Cal) prevented both increased risk of maternal depression and adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes for children among 97.5% of the population. No upper limit for safety was found.

CONCLUSION: During pregnancy, a n-3 HUFA intake of 0.40en% (900mg/d/2000Cal) from seafood is likely to meet the nutritional requirements for 97.5% of the mothers and children of this population. These considerations do not constitute DRI's for docosahexaenoic acid and n-3 HUFAs, but may contribute to their formulation.