OMEGA-3, DHA & PREGNANCY

OMEGA-3, DHA & PREGNANCY

  Pregnancy is a very exciting and confusing time. All these questions about what you can and cannot do or consume and what you SHOULD  do and consume?!? The internet is loaded with facts, fiction and hearsay. It’s important to be able to clearly understand what exactly is going on internally and how the different supplements one can take can positively or negatively affect your pregnancy. This article will help you understand more about Omega-3 fatty acids and DHA. What are they? How do they work? And Why should I be taking them ? I first want to start off, by stating you should always consult with your Physician prior to adding anything new into your pregnancy journey, this also goes for the things you did pre natal as well.   What are Essential Fatty Acids (EFA)
  • EFA are Essential because your body cannot produce them on its own, as a result they must come from your diet/supplementation.
  • The two primary EFAs are known as linoleic acid (OMEGA-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (OMEGA-3).
  • Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fatty acids are structural components of cell membranes. They are used to make hormone-like substances that regulate body functions, such as blood pressure and immune system response.
  • Omega-6 Fatty Acids gets metabolized in the liver and Arachidonic acid (AA) are formed.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids gets converted to Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) the most biologically active forms of Omega-3.
What is DHA?
  • DHA is a type of Omega-3 fatty acid which is the most abundant fatty acid in the brain and is also present in the retina of the eye.
  • DHA accumulation in the brain is greatest during fetal development and infancy.
  • The majority of Omega-3 supplements come from either fish or krill* oil, but some provide omega-3 supplements (mainly DHA) from algae, a great option for vegetarians
*Krill are small shrimplike crustaceans that are the main food source of some fish, whales and even birds   DHA’s Role In Pregnancy:
  • All nutrients consumed by the mother gets transferred to the fetus through the placenta. There are a few ways nutrients can be transported. In regards to fatty acids, they get transported across a concentration gradient, which in lamens terms means the source providing the nutrients must have sufficient amounts of that nutrient in order to not become deficient themselves.
  • The first few weeks after conception — usually before the mother is aware she is pregnant — are the most active period of brain-cell division. The last trimester is the most rapid period of brain growth and requires a substantial amount of DHA. This is because 50% of fatty acids in the brain is DHA (essentially, the number of cells increases rapidly in the first trimester, and the size of the cells increases most rapidly in the third trimester). In addition, DHA is an important component of retinal membranes.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid Research
  • EPA and DHA have been studied extensively and several clinical studies suggest that taking omega-3 supplements can potentially offer positive health benefits in regards to mental health and inflammatory diseases to memory and dry eyes.
  • Researchers have long studied the relationship between maternal omega-3 intake and the result on fetal growth and neurodevelopment.
  • According to a scientific literature review in 2010 on omega-3 fatty acids and pregnancy concluded:
– Adequate omega-3 fatty acid intake during pregnancy is linked to better neurodevelopmental outcome in the child – Both dietary sources and supplements can provide Omega-3 benefits[1] – Although omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with prolonging the gestation period and reducing the risk of preterm birth, there is not enough evidence to support supplementation for this purpose alone – Although low seafood consumption has ben associated with depression during pregnancy, there is not enough evidence to support supplementation for this purpose.   Sources of DHA, EPA, AA
Fatty AcidDietary Sources
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Linoleic acid (LA)Nuts, seeds, vegetable and seed oils
Arachidonic acid (AA)Body converts LA into AA acid

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)Green plants, algae, rapeseed (canola oil), soybeans, flax, flaxseed, walnuts
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)Marine oils, fish
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)Marine oils, fish
    Best Fish* and Seafood Sources of DHA and EPA
FishEPA + DHA mg/ servingNumber of 3-oz servings needed to get 500 mg/EPA+DHA/day
Cod1343.7
Catfish1513.3
Haddock2032.5
Clams2412.1
Shrimp2671.9
Flounder4261.2
Pollock4601.1
Flatfish4981
Tuna, Canned7330.68
Salmon1,8250.27
– Source: Adapted from Gebauer Sk, Psota TL, Harris WS; Kris-Etherton PM. N-3 fatty acid recommendations and food sources to achieve essentially and cardiovascular benefits. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;83 (6 Suppl):1526S-1535S. *Farmed fish is generally higher in omega-3 that wild –caught fish
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health encourages pregnant woman to eat between 8-12 oz of a variety of cooked seafood every week for optimal health benefits.
  • Choices should be limited to fish known to be high in omega-3 fatty acids and low risk for mercury contamination, such as salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines trout or Atlantic or Pacific (NOT KING) mackerel.
  • Dietary planning for vegetarians — and vegans — should emphasize consuming adequate calories and foods rich in nutrients that could be lacking in a plant-based diet, such as iron, folic acid, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids (specifically DHA), calcium, zinc, vitamin B-12 and protein.
  TAKE HOME MESSAGE/COMMENTS:
  • Consuming sufficient amounts of Essential Fatty Acids: Omega 6 and Omega 3 are crucial for brain development, cell membranes and walls.
  • If the mother does not get adequate omega-3 fatty acids from food, the March of Dimes recommends a supplement that contains at least 200 mg of DHA
  • Try to consume 8-12 oz a week of high omega-3 food sources that are low in mercury ( if its from a marine source).
  • Another great option is to choose  pre-natal vitamin that is either fortified with DHA or that has a DHA tablet to go along with it. I used one prescribed to me from my OBGYN, this way I knew I was consuming adequate amounts throughout my pregnancy
  • Even if you are not pregnant but are planning on getting pregnant, its a great habit to include omega-3 fatty acids into your supplementation regimen or diet.
#beNaturALi [1] Coletta JM, Bell SJ, Roman AS. Omega-3 fatty acids and pregnancy. Rev Obstet Gynecol.2010;3(4):163-171.

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