Here in our blog Mais Saúde we have presented information about the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids (OM3-FA) including improving mood, boosting male fertility, decreasing the risk of vision loss, and decreasing the risk of dementia.
Today we present a study published in the April 2013 edition of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which reports that OM3-FA also help pregnant women increase the odds they will deliver a healthy child.
The researchers tested supplements of DHA (which is one type of OM3-FA), which is naturally found in cell membranes. DHA supplements taken as capsules or by eating certain foods will increase the concentration of DHA in your cells, particularly in brain cells. The fetal brain also accumulates DHA as it develops in the mother’s womb.
In the current study, led by Susan E. Carlson Ph.D., 154 healthy pregnant women were randomly divided into two groups; one half of them received a daily supplement of 600 mg. of DHA, and the other half received a placebo pill that looked and tasted just like the DHA pill. All the women started their pills prior to the 20th week of gestation, and took them until they gave birth.
The study measured the levels of DHA in the women’s blood, as well as in the babies’ umbilical cord blood, and they found that indeed, the women who took the supplements had increased levels. But what interested them most was: did the women who received the DHA have fewer pre-term births (a good thing)? Did they deliver fewer low-birth weight babies? Were there any adverse effects from the supplements?
The findings showed that the women receiving the DHA did indeed deliver healthier babies. Their babies were nearly a quarter kilogram heavier, and slightly longer and they had slightly larger head circumferences (all good).
Further, only 0.6 percent of the women taking the supplements delivered babies at 34 weeks or sooner, versus nearly 5% of the women who had not taken the supplements. They found no adverse effects.
While pregnant women, or anyone, can boost their DHA levels by taking OM3-FA pills (which contain DHA), you can also eat more of the foods which contain significant OM3-FA levels such as fish and nuts. The best fish sources are salmon, anchovies, and sardines. One important thing—and especially for pregnant women—you want to make sure your fish are mercury and toxin free, and that means you should avoid “farm raised” fish.
If you eat salmon twice or three times a week, you are getting a good OM3-FA dose. The highest quality omega-3s are obtained from fish sources, but the best non-fish sources are flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. But most any nuts are good (except macadamia nuts). Or you can take OM3-FA capsules (which contain DHA), but make sure it is a quality brand, that uses “clean” fish. Pregnant women should check with their doctor before taking any medication, including supplements.
This research gives pregnant women a good reason to make sure they get an adequate intake of OM3-FA. An interestingly, the same research group led by Dr. Susan Carlson are continuing their research on the babies that were delivered in the current study, to see if they continue to show better health from continued DHA supplementation of their mothers.
See also in ProcuraMed:
Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)