Don't forget the DHA, mothers told

Related tags Dha Nutrition Essential fatty acid

The importance of calcium and folic acid to the development of
infants is well documented, but the benefits of docosahexaenoic
acid, or DHA, are less well known.

The importance of calcium and folic acid to the development of infants is well documented, but the benefits of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, are less well known. DHA is an omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid and is one of the essential building blocks of human brain tissue. It is found naturally in breast milk, egg yolk and oily fish such as tuna, salmon and sardines. "DHA is one of the four most important nutrients for pregnant and lactating women," said Barbara Levine, R.D., Ph.D., director of the Nutrition Information Center. "Expectant mothers should begin to include essential fatty acids in their diets in early pregnancy to ensure that DHA is passed on to the baby's tissues during the gestational period." Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that infants who were breastfed, and therefore received DHA from birth, have better eyesight than those who were not. Scientists from the University of Bristol in the UK, working in conjunction with researchers from the Retina Foundation of the Southwest, Dallas and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found a link between DHA and improved visual and intellectual development of children. "Baby's significant brain and eye development occurs during pregnancy and the first year after birth," explained Levine. "Breast milk is a primary source of DHA, so it's important for mothers to have good levels of DHA in their own bodies. The best dietary sources of DHA are salmon and deep-sea fatty fish, as well as omega-3 enhanced eggs." DHA supplements launched In a related move, the OmegaTech group has announced that it is to sell DHA Gold dietary supplements for pregnant and lactating women in Kroger pharmacies across the US. The company cited the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL), which recommends that pregnant and lactating women consume a minimum of 300mg of DHA per day. In the Netherlands, for example, the recommended daily intake is over 1 gram of DHA per day for pregnant and lactating mothers. OmegaTech claimed that studies of its products had shown that a diet rich in DHA can increase breast milk DHA levels to match that of a number of infant formulas recently introduced to the US market following FDA approval. Research sponsored by OmegaTech at Auburn University has demonstrated that daily consumption of 300mg of DHA significantly increases the level of DHA in breast milk within two days of supplementation, the company said. "In most of the world, intake of DHA by adults ranges from 100 to 1000 mg/day, depending on the amount of fish in the diet," the company said in a statement. "US women have one of the lowest levels of DHA in breast milk in the world. Recently, low breast milk DHA has been linked to an increased rate of post-partum depression." "The FDA and other regulatory agencies worldwide have warned pregnant women not to eat certain fish due to risk of contamination by heavy metals, including mercury, which can seriously harm the developing baby. In the US, it has been estimated that DHA intake has decreased among non-fish eaters from 100 mg/day in 1950 to 34 mg/day in 1994. Now US women have an alternative source of DHA in DHA Gold supplements."

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