Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA provide a variety of health benefits for expectant mothers, including promoting healthy brain and eye development in their babies. The problem, say researchers in Canada, is that women who are pregnant and nursing simply aren’t eating enough of these healthy fats.
Using data from the long-term Alberta Pregnancy Outcomes and Nutrition (APRON) study, scientists from the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary were able to determine recently that less than 30 percent of pregnant women and only a quarter of new mothers are consuming the daily amount of Omega-3s recommended by leading health experts—typically at least 500 mg total Omega-3 fats, including at least 200 mg of DHA.
The ongoing study involves more than 2,000 women and centers on the relationship between maternal nutrition and healthy child development. For this particular research, scientists focused on just under a third of the participants and found that regardless of income, location, and other factors, the majority of women failed to get enough beneficial Omega-3s in their diets. When they did consume the beneficial fats, they came mostly from seafood—salmon in particular.
Interestingly, pregnant and nursing women who reported taking a DHA fish oil supplement were up to 11 percent more likely to meet the daily Omega-3 recommendations. Researchers hope the results of the study, published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, will increase awareness about the benefits of Omega-3s during and after pregnancy.
Fish oils have been in the news a lot lately because of their many health benefits. In a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, scientists from the University of Reading in the UK reported that fish-derived Omega-3s were shown to help protect the blood vessels surrounding the heart and may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.‡
While the American Heart Association and other experts recommend eating oily fish at least twice weekly (mainly those low in mercury such as salmon, sardines, and herring) some people find this difficult, either because they don’t cook fish regularly or because they don’t like the taste. Purified fish oil supplements may provide a convenient and healthful alternative.‡ When choosing a fish oil supplement, be sure to pay attention to the following key features:
- High potency: Look at how much Omega-3 is in each softgel—not how much fish oil. Choose a supplement that contains at least 1,000 mg Omega-3 per softgel.
- Purity: Look for the IFOS (International Fish Oil Standards™) seal to ensure your fish oil exceeds published international standards for the lowest levels of toxins.
- Freshness: Opt for a supplement packaged in a dark-colored glass bottle designed to protect the oils from light and moisture.
- Enteric coating: Enteric coated softgels help deliver the healthy Omega-3s directly to the intestines where they are absorbed. Lipase (an enzyme) may also be added to help with digestion of the oils.
In addition to their extensively studied heart health benefits*, Omega-3 essential fatty acids from fish—including EPA and DHA—have been shown to support brain, eye, and joint health as well as promote healthy immune function and mood.‡
Curious about how much fish oil you should take and when? Click here for answers!
*Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA & DHA Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.