Nutrition and FASD
Heather Giesbrecht and Karlee Dyck are receiving a lot of attention for their research into how prenatal nutrition plays a role in the severity of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) among First Nations Women.

Through partnerships with urban programs and First Nations communities, the nutritional status of 30 pregnant women in Manitoba consuming alcohol will be compared to a control group of 30 pregnant women not consuming alcohol. Data will be collected from the 1st to 3rd trimester, and on infants post-delivery. Food and alcohol intake patterns, as well as lifestyle parameters will be collected.

Study outcomes may provide future nutrition interventions to enhance the health of mothers consuming alcohol during pregnancy, and subsequently, their infants. Improved nutritional status during pregnancy also has the potential to reduce the risk of FASD. This may be through overall improvement in the mother’s health and nutritional status or though provision of protective levels of nutrients involved in brain development. This information will be useful to those in health-care and may lead to best-practice policies. The benefit of this information also reaches individuals, families and communities, especially in the high risk First Nations population.

Heather received the Holmfridur Kristjansson Graduate Award in Nutrition for her work on the preliminary study stage and community engagement involved in the project. From the early stages of research, the study used various methods of community engagement with key stakeholders, including potential participants, community health workers on and off reserve, community leadership and First Nations governing bodies. As part of community engagement, participants (pregnant First Nations and non-First Nations women) completed the research tool, and interactive questionnaire and provided feedback. This helped ensure that the research tool was appropriate, easy to use and useful for this population.

Karlee is working on the second stage of data collection, and received the Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship-Master’s program. She will be collecting nutrition status data in follow up visits with participants.

While both Heather and Karlee have been recognized for their individual work in the study, they are both recipients of this year’s Dr. E. Feniak Award for Excellence in Technical Writing.

Heather and Karlee are supervised by Dr. Miyoung Suh (Human Nutritional Sciences) and Dr. Rachel Eni (Family Social Sciences). The project is funded by CIIFAC (Canada-Israel International Fetal Alcohol Consortium) and the Government of Manitoba Innovation, Energy and Mines.