The benefits of fish oil
Get the good stuff
Fish is essential for your baby's brain when you're
pregnant or breastfeeding so, anyone for salmon
It's no accident that fish is called "brain food". Fish, seafood
and fish oil supplements are the main sources of omega 3 which
converts into important substances for our brains and overall
And latest research shows pregnant mums need to eat lots of it
for the sake of their unborn babies. Yet, if you didn't eat much
fish in pregnancy, relax - it's never too late to start, for you or
Omega 3 converts into DHA and EPA in the body. A pregnant mum's
deficiency in DHA, in particular, has been linked to depression,
anxiety or cognitive development issues for her child later on,
says world expert Dr Alex Richardson, who's a senior research
fellow at Oxford University.
Yet why, you wonder, has everyone been telling you to limit
eating fish in pregnancy because of the high mercury levels? Well,
it seems now the Ministry of Health has relaxed its rules around
fish, maybe because in 2007 UK medical journal, the Lancet, came
out saying there was no data showing mercury levels in fish posed
any risk. It based its findings on the Children of the 90s study
involving 15,000 mums and their children.
And Dr Richardson says guidelines for pregnant mums have been
detrimental to their health and health authorities have been slow
Sadly, low levels of DHA in mums are common in the western
world. Although a daily does of 200-300mg of DHA is recommended, in
Australia the average DHA intake was found to be 60-70mg and in the
US it's only 54mg.
For so long, Dr Richardson says, people have known nutrition has
clear links to health in other parts of the body, but there's been
little attention given to the link between nutrition and the
Fish is the only food known to provide omega 3 at any
appreciable level, she says. And its benefits are far-reaching.
Studies using fish oil supplements have linked it to improved
memory, better cardio-vascular health and help for kids with
A 2010 trial in Australia involving 2400 pregnant women (the
Domino Trial) using DHA from fish oil had significant results:
- The risk of postnatal
depression was reduced by 36%.
- The risk of having a baby
with developmental delays was reduced by 60%
- The risk of pre-term
delivery was reduced by 50%.
- A follow-up this year also
showed these babies were 36% less likely to develop eczema (7% down
from 12%) and 50% less likely to develop an egg allergy.
Other foods containing some omega 3 include organ meat such as
liver, heart and brain and eggs - particularly free range.
Unfortunately for vegetarians, flaxseed oil is a source of
short-chain omega 3 (unlike the long-chain kind in fish) which
doesn't easily convert into the important DHA and EPA we need.
To get the benefits of fish you need to eat it a couple of times
a week, or take supplements daily. The press about fish oil
capsules has been mixed and Peter Cough, technical director of fish
oil company Efamol, says it's important to find a good brand.
Consumers can be guided partly by price - cheap ones are unlikely
to have much effect. But also look for ones that have previously
been used in proper scientific trials as scientists are likely to
have sourced the most potent and effective varieties.
For more information go to www.fabresearch.org.
Published July 20, 2012