Are Omega-3 Fish Oils important for pregnant moms and infants?

by Dr. Sharleen Hawco ND November 15, 2008

As a Mom to be is taking a prenatal vitamin enough?
While a quality multivitamin supplement with sufficient amounts of folic acid is critically important. Fish Oil (Omega-3) is a must have supplement for both Mom's to be and nursing Mom's. You want a minimum of 300mg of DHA (one of the components of Fish Oil). A Canadian study indicated that the average mom only gets 80mg DHA / day.

Why is DHA important?
DHA is a critical part of our brain and nervous system and eyes. In growing embryos, infants and children a daily food or supplemental source of DHA is critical for proper development.

Fish Oil is composed of two main components: EPA ( eicosapentaenoic acid ) and DHA ( docosahexaenoic acid ). EPA is a fatty acid responsible for reducing inflammation in our bodies. DHA is a fatty acid that is critically important in the healthy development of the brain and nervous system. A study done by the University of Oslo in 2003 showed a statistical significant higher cognitive development scores of 4 yr olds who's mom took Fish oil while pregnant and while breast feeding as compared to children who's mom's did not.

How do I know I’m purchasing a quality Fish Oil?
The Fish Oil must be concentrated, molecularly distilled to remove any heavy metals, PCB’s and other toxins. The muscle of small cold water fish are the best sources these include anchovies, sardines, herring, and mackerel.

Cod Liver oil is produced from the liver of the fish and as a result is high is fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), and is not recommended for pregnant moms.

To find out how your fish oil rates with third party testing check out the International Fish oil Standards , a third party testing organization established by the University of Guelph

How else can I get Omega-3 oils in my diet?
Apart from supplementing, small cold water Fatty Fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring), Eggs (25mg in a regular egg & 80mg in an Omega -3 egg). ((As a side note chicken are fed corn and flax these both contains alpha-linoleic acid which chickens are very efficient at converting to DHA/EPA - humans are not so efficient at this conversion)). Raw Walnuts & Flax seeds are also a source of a DHA/EPA precursor molecule - but our human digestive system is not very efficient at converting ALA to DHA, so you would have to take about 2 cups of flax oil to equal 1 tsp of fish oil!!

How much would my child need?
For young children the recommended intake of DHA is 150mg / day (this would be found in 340g of Fish / wk).

A few brands that I recommend to my patients lare: Nutra Sea , Nordic Naturals , NFH (No affiliations to any of these companies)

For more information on DHA check out Dr. Bruce Holub’s DHA site .
Dr. Sharleen Hawco ND
Dr. Sharleen Hawco ND


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