Omega-3 Fatty Acids: How to Help Your Child Become an Athlete Even Before Birth
A new study from the Netherlands finds that mothers-to-be who consume higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) have children with improved motor function later in life.
Dutch scientists followed more than 300 children for seven years, comparing their skills related to hand-eye coordination with the amount of DHA measured in umbilical cord blood. The researchers learned that children who received more DHA in the womb did not move “more”—that is, they did not fidget or wander—but they moved “better”—that is, they were better able to tie a shoe, throw a ball , use buttons and zippers, and use their hands in music and crafts. The study found that children benefited from DHA regardless of whether they were born prematurely and that DHA was good for both boys and girls.
Children who had been exposed to more DHA in the womb did not have higher IQs than children who had not, but by age 7 they tended to have larger vocabularies, spoke in longer sentences, and had higher scores. high on language comprehension tests. Also, mothers who had higher levels of DHA during pregnancy were less likely to suffer from postpartum depression and recovered faster from childbirth.
The findings of this latest study are consistent with several others. An American clinical research team found that babies given more DHA in their formula grew taller and heavier, had sharper eyesight, and more developed language skills at the age of 3 years and 3 months. Another US study, also funded by Abbott Labs, found that premature babies were more likely to talk at 14 months if they received formula supplemented with DHA and arachidonic acid (the fatty acid found in eggs).
So how should moms-to-be get their DHA?
Omega Fatty Acids
The foods richest in DHA are the two “F’s”, flax and fish. Flaxseed oil is particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids, as is cold-water fish. There’s also some DHA in canola oil, soybean oil, eggs, and organ meats that Americans often find in hot dogs and hot dogs (not that I recommend a steady diet during pregnancy). Two 3-1/2 oz (100 g) servings of fish per week are sufficient if the diet also includes other DHA-rich foods. Algae, as you may know, are also an excellent source of DHA.
The most widely used DHA supplement is fish oil. Distilled fish oil does not contain any of the heavy metals that sometimes appear in ocean fish. The new Expecta Lipil supplement is also tested for toxins. Neuromins, however, is the vegetarian alternative.
DHA is the number one component of brain tissue, so it’s not hard to understand that getting enough DHA is essential for brain health. Just don’t overdo it. As little as 200 mg of DHA a day can make a difference, and you can get this dose safely, cheaply, and without messing with your digestion or diet.