|Sarah McGowan-Freije, NatureCity author & contributor|
The DHA form of omega-3s accounts for more than 10% of brain fatty acids and is important for brain development in babies. A recent study suggests that taking omega-3 supplements may help lactating women increase omega-3 levels in their breast milk and help babies achieve a better ratio of omega-3 to omega-6.
Participants in the study included 89 lactating women and their babies. All of the women were 4-6 weeks postpartum. They were given either a placebo, 200 mg DHA or 400 mg DHA for six weeks and told to follow their usual diets.
The researchers measured both breast milk and maternal plasma fatty acid levels in the mothers at the beginning and end of the study. Fatty acid levels in the infants were measured at the end of the study.
The researchers found that the 200 mg supplement was associated with a 50% increase in omega 3s in the breast milk and 71% increase in maternal plasma DHA, compared to placebo. The 400 mg dose showed even greater improvements, with 123% and 101% increases, respectively.
The babies in the supplement groups had lower omega 6:3 ratios than those in the placebo group. Lower ratios have been associated with higher percentage of DHA in the three critical regions of the brain. Some studies suggest that an imbalance in the 6:3 ratio in the early stages of life may result in irreversible changes in the hypothalamus.
Researchers from Abbott Nutrition conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on February 10, 2015, in the journal PLEFA.
Omega-3s have been linked to a number of health benefits, including alleviating arthritis pain, better moods, improved joint mobility, helping with age related macular degeneration, and aiding your immune system.
Because omega-3 fatty-acids are not found naturally in the human body, it is especially important to make sure that they are a part of your daily diet. Oily, dark fish such as tuna and salmon are high in DHA and EPA omega-3s.