Fish Oil Makes Healthy Babies

If you have ever browsed the shelves of your local supermarket or Pharmacy, you will have seen bottles of omega-3 capsules, typically recommended for maintaining a healthy heart and for reducing inflammation in conditions such as arthritis. Did you know that these essential fatty acids are also vital for a healthy pregnancy and for the health of your baby?

Omega-3: Vital for Baby’s Brain Development

Essential fatty acids act as building blocks for your baby’s brain and eye development, and an omega-3 deficiency during pregnancy can have permanent effects on your child’s cognitive function. Scientific studies found that children whose mothers did not get enough omega-3 during pregnancy were more likely to score lower on tests of IQ, verbal intelligence, memory, fine motor skills, behaviour, social skills, and communication skills,compared with those whose mothers did get enough omega-3.

DHA Makes Smarter Babies

Your baby’s brain and eye development during pregnancy depend on docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), one of the essential omega-3 fatty acids. As we cannot make DHA ourselves, babies rely on their mother’s dietary intake to get what they need. Studies have linked high-DHA supplements taken in pregnancy with greater memory and problem-solving ability in babies at nine months of age, improved attention in toddlers, and better hand-eye co-ordination in children aged two and a half years. Getting enough DHA during pregnancy can therefore, support your child’s brain development and improve their overall cognitive function.

Most People Aren’t getting Enough

Alarmingly, 80% per cent of Australian adults do not meet the recommended daily intake (RDI) of omega-3, and among those who do, 90% take an omega-3 supplement.  Pregnant women are no exception, and omega-3 deficiency affects both their own and their babies’ health.

Unfortunately, it is a little trickier for pregnant women to get enough omega-3, compared with non-pregnant women. Firstly, you need 200 mg more DHA per day when pregnant.  Secondly, many women are (rightly!) concerned about the effect of contamination of fatty fish (a rich source of omega-3) with mercury and plasticisers on their baby’s health. They therefore avoid eating it, reducing their intake of omega-3.

Algae or Fish – What’s Best for Me and My Baby?

As long as you take a high quality, high dose supplement, both fish oil and algal oil will ensure you get the omega-3 fatty acids your baby requires. However, here are some tips for choosing the right supplement for you:

Vegetarian/Vegan diet

Algal oil is a great alternative to fish oil for women who are vegetarian, vegan or who just prefer not to consume fish products. Made from algae, this omega-3 supplement is not derived from an animal source. Interestingly, fish get their essential fatty acids from eating algae, so by choosing algal oil, you are skipping the ‘middle man’.

Dosage

To get the benefits of omega-3 for you and your baby, you need a high dose of DHA, at least 600 mg/day. Look for a high potency supplement that contains approximately 300 mg of DHA per capsule; to get the right dose with a less potent supplement you would need to take a handful of capsules, which is especially difficult if you are feeling nauseous or have reflux! Algal oil is naturally higher in DHA than EPA, so it may be easier to get the DHA needed for baby’s brain development with an algal omega-3.

Purity

Algal oil is sustainably grown in a controlled environment that is not exposed to the harmful chemicals and contaminants found in our oceans, such as mercury, heavy metals or pesticides. For this reason, it is a clean source of omega-3. However, if you choose a fish oil made from small, cold water, pelagic fish, and select a supplement that has been purified by a process called ‘molecular distillation’, it will also be free of contaminants and safe for you and your baby.

Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of premature birth and support your child’s brain development. To get the best results, choose a high dose, high purity omega-3 supplement, and start taking it when you are thinking about trying for a baby, or as soon as you find out that you are pregnant.  

FIONA STOCK | THE CHILDREN’S NATUROPATH | MELBOURNE NATUROPATH

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