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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Healthy Pregnancies and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

By Michael McBurney

Pregnant? Anticipating the birth of a beautiful new baby? Boy or girl, it does not matter, because both need omega-3 fatty acids for the normal development of the brain and eye. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is concentrated in the brain and the eye. Because much of the brain and visual systems develop in the last trimester of pregnancy, maternal DHA intake is especially important during this time.

Jia and colleagues estimated omega-3 intake in 600 women living in Alberta, Canada. Dietary intake was measured during each trimester of pregnancy and at 3 month postpartum. Only ¼ of women were consuming recommended amounts of DHA. Women who reported using omega-3 supplements were 10-11 times more likely to meet European consensus requirements for pregnancy (200 mg DHA daily).

These findings are not unique to women living in Canada. Women living in Europe and the US are consuming less than recommended amounts of DHA. Salmon and fatty fish are just not that frequently consumed, partly because of concerns about mercury content.

There are independent third-party organizations which test and certify fish oil supplements. Organizations such as require their members to commit to the highest manufacturing and quality standards. Fish and algal oils are a safe, efficacious means to obtain omega-3 fatty acids, essential for health.

Main Citation

Jia X, Pakseresht M, Wattar N, Wildgrube J, Sontag S, Andrews M, Subhan FB, McCargar L, Field CJ, and the APrON team. 2015 Appl Physiol Nutr Metab doi: 10.1139/apnm-2014-0313

Other Citations

Koletzko B, Lien E, Agostoni C, Böhles H, Campoy C, Cetin I, Desci T, Dudenhausen JW, Dupont C, Forsyth S, Hoesli I, Holzgreve W, Lapillone A, Putet G, Secher NJ, Symonds M, Szajewska H, Willatts P, Uauy R, World Association of Perinatal Medicine Dietary Guidelines Working Group. The roles of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in pregnancy, lactation and infancy: review of current knowledge and consensus recommendations. 2008 J Perinat Med doi: 10.1515/JPM.2008.001

Cosatto VF, Else PL, Meyer BJ. Do pregnant women and those at risk of developing post-natal depression consume lower amounts of long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids? 2010 Nutr doi: 10.3390/nu2020198

Campbell C, Foster R, Kratzer S, Smith K. Supplemented and supplement-free DHA intake and blood DHA in pregnant women from two non-coastal communities. 2011 FASEB J 25:777.5

Wu BT, Dyer RA< King DJ, Innis SM. Low fish intake is associated with low blood concentrations of vitamin D, choline and n-3 DHA in pregnant women. 2013 Br J Nutr doi: 10.1017/S0007114512002103

Oken E, Kleinman KP, Berland WE, Simon SR, Rich-Edwards JW, Gillman MW. Decline in fish consumption among pregnant women after a national mercury advisory. 2003 Obstet Gynecol  doi: 10.1016/S0029-7844(03)00484-8