Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids & Fetus Development
EPA and DHA are omega-3 fatty acids. They could only be obtained from diet. Fatty acids are major components of brain tissue. Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as DHA, are among the most important fatty acids which are incorporated into the brain and retina, in particular the nerve membranes.
The most dramatic development of the nervous system occurs prenatally and early postnatally. Mothers are the sole source of nutrients for the fetus during development. Without adequate nutritional replenishment, mothers could be depleted of critical nutrients with adverse consequences for both mother and infant. Maternal and neonatal concentrations of DHA are associated with improved outcomes in early infancy, and favorable neurodevelopmental outcome and improved intelligence scores beyond early infancy.
Increased Demand for DHA during Pregnancy
Adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids by the mother is very important to support the need for fetus brain, eyes and nerve while young infants rely on intake from milk. For mother who wishes to breastfeed, supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids could help boost the DHA and EPA concentration in the milk.
Many of the oily fish high in omega-3 are predators, and being higher in the food chain are therefore more likely to contain contaminants, such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). As an alternative, omega-3 fish oil sourced from wild ocean fish that live in the cold, clean and unpolluted water of the Pacific coast of Alaska is rich in EPA and DHA. It can help maintain the health of the mother and the baby with the following benefits:
Benefits of Omega-3 for the Mother
- Relieve depressive symptoms
A study correlating DHA content in breast milk with postpartum depression revealed higher levels of depressive symptoms in women with low DHA levels when compared to women with higher levels.
- Promote joint health
Resolvins are compounds that are made by the human body from EPA and DHA. Resolvin D2 enhances the production of nitric oxide which prevents white blood cells from being attached to the joints. Hence, it helps in relieving pain and swelling in the joints.
- Promote cardiovascular health
Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids can assist in maintaining blood pressure, prevent lipid accumulate on the blood vessel and control lipid molecules in blood.
- Maintain healthy digestive system
Omega-3 is and essential fatty acids that can activate cell functions, support healthy cells and increase resistance. It helps to maintain a healthy digestive system.
- Anti-aging effects
Polyunsaturated fatty acids from fish oil help replenishing fats lost in the skin causing skin dryness or excessive flaking. It can nourish the skin and hair, improve skin elasticity and reduce wrinkles. Omega-3 fatty acids also relieve inflammation that may occur in the cells and help to keep them healthy.[7,10]
Benefits of Omega-3 for the Baby
- Increase gestation length and birth weight
Numerous observational studies have revealed a positive association between omega-3 and gestation length. Prenatal supplementation with omega-3 has been linked to a trend in increased birth weight.
- Improve neurodevelopment
Adequate maternal intake of omega-3 has been correlated with improved neonatal visual development, central nervous system functioning, and improved childhood cognitive ability and intelligence scores.[12,13]
- Reduce risk of childhood allergic diseases
Numerous studies have positively associated higher omega-3 levels in cord blood with subsequent reduction in the development of childhood allergic diseases, such as asthma, autoimmune diseases, atopic dermatitis, and allergic rhinitis.[14-16]
Recommended daily dose:
For adult, take 1 softgel capsule twice daily or as directed by physicians.
- Hadders-Algra M. Effect of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation on neurodevelopmental outcome in full-term infants. Nutrients. 2010;2(8):790-804.
- Hadders-Algra M. Prenatal and early postnatal supplementation with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids: neurodevelopmental considerations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;94(6 Suppl):1874S-1879S.
- Dunstan JA, Roper J, Mitoulas L, Hartmann PE, Simmer K, Prescott SL. The effect of supplementation with fish oil during pregnancy on breast milk immunoglobulin A, soluble CD14, cytokine levels and fatty acid composition. Clin Exp Allergy. 2004;34(8):1237-42.
- Hibbeln JR. Seafood consumption, the DHA content of mothers’ milk and prevalence rates of postpartum depression: a cross-national, ecological analysis. J Affect Disord. 2002 May;69(1-3):15-29.
- Spite M, Norling LV, Serhan CN et al. Resolvin D2 is a potent regulator of leukocytes and controls microbial sepsis. 2009;461(7268):1287-91.
- Das UN. Can vagus nerve stimulation halt or ameliorate rheumatoid arthritis and lupus? Lipids Health Dis. 2011 Jan 24, doi: 10.1186/1476-511X-10-19.
- Fats and fatty acids in human nutrition. Report of an expert consultation. Geneva. 10 – 14 November 2008. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). Food Nutr Pap. 2010;91:1-166.
- Cencic A and Chingwaru W. The Role of Functional Foods, Nutraceuticals, and Food Supplements in Intestinal Health. Nutrients. 2010;2(6):611-25.
- Boelsma E, Hendriks HF, Roza L. Nutritional skin care: health effects of micronutrients and fatty acids. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001;73(5):853-64.
- Maroon JC, Bost Jw, Maroon A. Natural anti-inflammatory agents for pain relief. Surg Neurol Int. 2010 Dec 13, doi: 10.4103/2152-7806.73804.
- Jordan RG. Prenatal omega-3 fatty acids: review and recommendations. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2010;55(6):520-8.
- Malcolm CA, McCulloch DL, Montgomery C, Shepherd A, Weaver LT. Maternal docosahexaenoic acid supplementation during pregnancy and visual evoked potential development in term infants: a double blind, prospective, randomised trial. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2003;88(5):F383-90.
- McCann JC, Ames BN. Is docosahexaenoic acid, an n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid, required for development of normal brain function? An overview of evidence from cognitive and behavioral tests in humans and animals. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;82(2):281-95.
- Olsen SF, Østerdal ML, Salvig JD, Mortensen LM, Ryter D et al. Fish oil intake compared with olive oil intake in late pregnancy and asthma in offspring: 16y registry-based follow-up from a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;88(1):167-75.
- Hibbeln JR, Davis JM, Steer C, Emmett P, Rogers I et al. Maternal seafood consumption in pregnancy and neurodevelopmental outcomes in childhood (ALSPAC Study). Lancet. 2007;369(9561):578-85.
- Blümer N, Renz H. Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids during perinatal life: Role in immuno-modulation and allergy prevention. J Perinat Med. 2007;35(Suppl 1):S12-8.
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