- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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:
|Fatty Acid||Dietary 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|
|Fish||EPA + DHA mg/ serving||Number of 3-oz servings needed to get 500 mg/EPA+DHA/day|
- 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.
- 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.