Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pregnancy, Lactation and Fish

Omega-3 Fatty Acids are polyunsaturated fats that are considered to be essential to our bodies: this means your body cannot make them on its own, rather they have to come from your well balanced diet. Studies show that a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids may help regulate triglycerides blood levels as well as increase HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). Omega 3 fatty acids may also act as an anticoagulant to prevent blood from clotting which may help to lower high blood pressure and they have been associated with decreased inflammation, increased agility and boosted brain function!

Sources of omega-3s
> EPA and DHA (Eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid)
Such as fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, halibut, sardines, tuna as well as omega-3 eggs (which are fortified with DHA) and algae (seaweed).Cod liver oil is not a good source of omega 3 acids since it may cause toxicity in excess amounts due to its high levels of Vitamin A and Vitamin D so fish oil is better!
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds, especially walnuts, flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds
  • Vegetable oils such as canola, soy and flaxseed oil
  • Supplements – it’s best to get fish oil that contains both DHA and EPA. Know that up to 3 grams of fish oil per day in pregnancy is safe so take no more than 3 g! And always consult your doctor or licensed dietitian before you go for supplements!
> ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid)
Our bodies can convert ALA into EPA and DHA but the conversion process is slow so both sources are important!

What are the benefits of Omega 3 fish oils?
Most scientists and health professionals agree that omega-3 fish oil contains a wide range of health benefits pertaining to seriously many different areas of the body! We’ve already mentioned a few earlier, but check out how valuable omega-3 is for you as well as your baby!

  • Circulation – By regulating your blood lipid profiles and decreasing clotting risks.
  • Heart – By helping reduce the risk of arrhythmias (irregularity of the heartbeat) and sudden death by a heart attack.
  • Brain – Better brain function though more efficient neurotransmitters leading to improved concentration, memory and less likelihood of depression.
  • Joints & Arthritis – Better joint function from reduced inflammation and a reduction in pain.
  • Skin – Improves the health and appearance of your skin, helps keep nails and hair healthy.
  • Immune System & Cancer – A stronger immune system, proven to be beneficial for the body’s immune function and a lowered risk of breast and prostate cancer.
  • Vision – Improved focus, color, perception and clarity of vision.
  • Digestive System – By improving intestinal health and reducing inflammation in cases such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
  • Allergies – Omega-3 fatty acid intake by mothers during pregnancy may protect babies against the development of allergies.
  • Diabetes – Fish oil enhances insulin secretion from beta cells in the pancreas, regulating blood sugar levels especially DHA.
  • Because omega-3 fatty acids are needed for the development of the brain, nervous system and immune function. This is important for both mom and baby especially during the growth spurt in the last trimester and after birth.
  • Adequate omega-3 intake during pregnancy is associated with appropriate birth weight, head circumference, cognitive development and fewer preterm births.
  • Your fetus gains 50–60 milligrams (mg) n-3/day during the last trimester (mostly DHA) so it’s important to have reserves for both of you!
  • During lactation, as a mother, your body loses 70-80 mg DHA per day and your stores decrease by 30% after birth, so you need your diet to provide you with sufficient amounts
  • Studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids from the maternal diet are found in both breast milk and in fetal cord blood, so yes mommy, you are providing your baby with his/her needs of omega-3s! Your baby can only get EPA, DHA and ALA from your diet.
So why is it important to get enough omega-3s when you are pregnant and breastfeeding?
Omega-3s and safety issues
·  Eat fish with the lowest mercury levels such as salmon, canned tuna, anchovies, cod, herring, lobster, mackerel, lobster, scallops and shrimp
·  Do NOT eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish because of high mercury levels
So what’s up with mercury?
Nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury. The calculation is quite simple: Mercury exposure is passed up through the food chain:
·   Bigger fish accumulate more as they eat smaller fish
·   Older fish tend to have more mercury because they have been exposed to mercury over a longer period of time!
And just so that you know, mercury occurs naturally in the environment but also enters the atmosphere and water from human activities. Mercury can be emitted from fossil-fuel burning plants and automobiles into the air. Then it falls to the ground in rain and snow and enters streams, rivers and lakes.


  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women are recommended to have at least 2 servings of fish per week - particularly fatty fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids from the variety that are low in mercury.
  • Each "serving" is equivalent to about 100 grams of cooked fish, or about 3/4 of a cup of flaked fish. So eat at least 220 grams and a maximum of 330 grams of fish.

·    Fish sometimes carry parasites and if the fish is eaten raw or lightly preserved, parasites become a concern.  The most common of these parasites are nematodes (also known as "cod worms" or "herring worms") and tapeworms.  Nematodes, though rarely a problem, can infect a human host and cause limited digestive problems for a week or so.  Tapeworms are much worse: they can live in the human digestive tract for years, growing up to a couple of yards long, causing severe pain, weight loss and anemia. The good news: These parasites are killed when fish is properly cooked to an internal temperature of at least 63 °C.
Therefore when pregnant, avoid eating raw fish and make sure your fish is well prepared!
·    As for refrigerated smoked seafood, these may pose an increased risk of a bacterial infection called listeriosis for pregnant women, older people, and people with weakened immune systems.  These are usually labeled on your food package as "nova-style" "lox" "kippered," "smoked" or "jerky”, so read your labels and avoid them!

So to sum it up, omega-3 fatty acids are highly important in your diet for both you and you baby! Don’t overdo it and have fish like crazy, have well-cooked right amount and right type of fish and seafood to get their valuable benefits!



  1. I've heard a lot already about omega 3 fatty acids from my college classes in the past and now that you've somehow summed up the benefits and explanations about it pretty much made me learn some more than what I used to know. Because the truth of matter is omega 3 fatty acids is an important supplement that the body can't produced, so we need to provide it ourselves.

  2. excellent post that gathers all information needed, thank you!

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  4. your post is very much needed right now, thank you from the heart

  5. The problem is with farm-raised fish (which is what we find at regular supermarkets today) they are fed corn and then they don't produce the so-good omega-3's we keep eating omega 6 and C-13 fats from corn!
    Watch out and look for wild fish.

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