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Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Pregnancy

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Omega 3 Pregnancy Benefits

.Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 PregnancyFlaxseed Oil Does Not Increase Essential DHA in Breast Milk

It is clear that DHA, not ALA from flaxseed, is the key fatty acid in optoimizing development of the newborn child’s brain. It is important to remember that approximately 60 percent of the human brain is composed of fatty material -- and 25 percent of that material is DHA.

Human breast milk is made up of fifty percent fat, a necessary component to the growth of the newborn baby. The fat contains omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids that facilitate the development of the brain, retina and other organs. These fatty acids in human milk come from three sources, body stores of fatty acids, synthesis of fatty acids by the liver or breast tissue and the diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, are particularly important because they play a major role in the development of the newborns brain and retina. The make up of fatty acid in breast milk is a reflection of the type of dietary fat consumed by the mother both short and long term. For example, women who took fish oil supplements, rich in DHA, for one to four weeks were found to have increased levels of DHA in their breast milk. Comparatively, women who eat fish on a regular basis have higher quantities of DHA in breast milk than those who do not.

Why were  children given fish oil supplements?

The brain needs certain oils, found in oily fish, to work properly. In particular, the brain needs oils called omega-3 essential fatty acids. The fish oil supplements given to the children contained omega-3 essential fatty acids.1

Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be made by your body. Your entire supply of these fatty acids has to come from the foods you eat.1,2

What were the results of the study?

In total, 100 children took the full course of supplements. Before treatment, their learning abilities were roughly one year lower than expected for their age.1

During the first three months, the children who took fish oil supplements showed improvements in behaviour and their reading and spelling abilities. Their short-term memories also improved. However, their motor skills did not appear to be affected by the fish oil supplements.1

The children who took the placebo pills made the expected rate of progress in their reading and spelling abilities. But when they switched to the fish oil supplements for the next three months, the researchers saw improvements in their reading and spelling, as well as their behaviour.1

This is thought to be the first study to look at the effect of fish oil supplements in children with DCD. More research will be needed to confirm the findings.1

Why do people's diets lack essential fatty acids?

This may be because a typical modern Western diet is high in cereals and low in fish. The majority of fish that is eaten tends to be low in essential fatty acids, such as cod and haddock.4

What are the signs of a lack of essential fatty acids?

There are a number of signs that someone might be lacking in essential fatty acids. These include:4

However, these problems may be due to other causes. If you or your children experience any of the above, you should see a doctor to rule out other factors.4


Unfortunately, patients consuming nearly every type of fish these days are showing high levels of mercury in their systems. In short -- and sadly, as it would otherwise be one of the healthiest meats on the planet -- I now advise against consuming any fish from any source, including fresh water, farm-raised or ocean, because most are contaminated with mercury. If you do consume fish, you should be certain the provider can demonstrate that the fish are free of detectable levels of mercury and other toxins.

Flaxseed oil is a source of another fatty acid, ALA, the precursor fatty acid in the synthetic steps that result in DHA, however studies have shown that humans convert very little ALA from flax to EPA or DHA. One study found that in the conversion of ALA to DHA, only .05 percent of ALA was available for synthesis of DHA.

In one recent study, participants were given 15,000 mg flaxseed oil daily for 12 weeks. Quantities of EPA, DPA, DHA or total omega-3 fatty acids did not increase in plasma or erythrocytes. Moreover, after the flaxseed oil supplementation was stopped, ALA concentrations in the blood and breast milk had reverted to the original concentrations.

Therefore, the study indicates that flaxseed oil is not an ideal source of fatty acids for breast-feeding mothers. American Journal Clinical Nutrition January 2003 77: 226-233

Generally, our diets contain not only far too little omega-3, but far too many omega-6 fats. Experts looking at the dietary ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids suggest that in early human history the ratio was about 1:1. Currently most Americans eat a dietary ratio that falls between 20:1 and 50:1. The optimal ratio is most likely closer to the original ratio of 1:1. For most of us this means not only increasing our omega-3 intake through fish oil, but also greatly reducing the omega-6 fatty acids we consume.

There are no known side effects to omega 3 fish oils.

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All information is for informational purposes only, and not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. No statements have been evaluated by the FDA. We always suggest talking to your physician concerning any questions you may have about supplement/drug interactions.