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Study: Babies already love omega-3 fatty acids in the belly

from Mag. Margit Weichselbraun
on 22.04.2020
What babies love in the womb: Omega-3 fatty acids What babies love in the womb: Omega-3 fatty acids

Long before a baby sees the light of day, it gets a lot from its mother: if the mother is happy and relaxed, the baby kicks with joy. If, however, she is sad or stressed, the little one becomes restless. Not only the mother’s well-being but also her nutrient intake influence her little one at an early stage. The influence of omega-3 fatty acids on the eyes and brain of the foetus in the womb was once again the subject of research.

For their study, the multi-member Finnish research team extracted the data from a previous large-scale study involving 56 pregnant women and their offspring. The expectant mothers regularly documented their diets. In addition, weight fluctuations before and during pregnancy were recorded as well as blood pressure and blood sugar levels. The researchers also recorded the mothers’ dietary intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), their serum PUFA levels, and the serum PUFA levels of their babies starting at one month.

After two years, a special, non-invasive test (pattern-reversal visual evoked potentials) was carried out on the offspring of the study participants to map the visual functions and maturation of the central nervous system. The children whose mothers ate three or more portions of fish a week in the last trimester of pregnancy scored better on this test than those whose mothers did not eat fish or ate only up to two portions of fish a week.

Omega-3 during pregnancy and breastfeeding Your baby can build on this!

These results once again underline that the foundation for the development opportunities a child has in later life is already laid during pregnancy. The importance of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA in pregnancy has been confirmed by the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) as follows: “The intake of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) by the mother contributes to the normal development of the eyes and brain in the foetus and breastfed infant*”.

Large quantities of DHA are found only in fish and fish products. But not every expectant mother – not least because of changed taste preferences – likes fish. Pregnant and breast-feeding women who have little or no fish in their diets can also achieve their daily DHA supply by using quality-tested and highly-purified fish oils in capsule form.

* The positive effects occur when 200 mg of DHA are taken daily in addition to the recommended daily dose of 250 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) for adults.

Normia, J. et al. 2018. Perinatal nutrition impacts on the functional development of the visual tract in infants. Pediatr Res. doi: 10.1038/s41390-018-0161-2.

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