Pregnancy and nursing
DHA is an essential element in the formation of the brain, nervous system and eyes of foetuses and new-borns during pregnancy and infancy. This is one of its most important—and least known—properties, and it is worth noting that it is only an essential property of DHAand not other Omega 3.
DHA is typically found in our bodies as part of cell membranes, but the area of our body that contains the greatest concentration of this substance is our brain. Here it performs the essential function of providing fluidity to cell membranes in synaptic functions.
The research funded by the European Commission and carried out under the Perinatal Lipid Nutrition Project (PeriLip) and the Early Nutrition Programming Project (EARNEST) concluded the following:
- Foetuses and new-borns must receive sufficient quantities of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPFA) to optimise their cognitive and visual development.
- Consumption of oils rich in Omega-3 LCPFAs during pregnancy reduces the risk of premature birth (pregnant women should always be assessed individually by a gynaecologist).
- On average, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers must consume at least 450 mg of DHA per day.
- We recommend that infants born on term be breastfed.
- If maternal breastfeeding is not possible, we recommend the use of infant formula in which DHA represents 0.2–0.5% of total fats and at least the same quantity of arachidonic acid (Omega 6)
(J Pernat Med 2008;36:5-14)