Thursday, January 26, 2006

Omega-3 fatty acids and prenatal care

Lately, the rage is discussing which foods should or should not be eaten during pregnancy. Recently Joseph Hibbeln and Jean Goldberg presented some preliminary findings on the role of omega-3 fatty acids consumed during pregnancy.

Their results show that the children of mothers who had consumed the smallest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids during their pregnancy:

  • had verbal IQ's that were lower than average
  • had lower scores on measures of fine motor performance at age 3.5
  • had more difficulties with social interactions

Further results discuss the following:

  • It appears that based on previous animal studies, omega-3 fatty acids appear to raise the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the frontal lobes.
  • Consumption of omega-3's may not necessarily be enough - it appears that the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is somewhat of a better measure to look at data. Average American's omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is 20/80 while the average Japanese person's ration is 40/60. So, while omega-6 is not bad per se, the ratio should be anywhere between 34/66 to 50/50

Keep in mind that:

  • Omega-6 fatty acids are found in: cereals, eggs, poultry, most vegetable oils, whole-grain breads, baked goods, and margarine.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are found in: oily cold-water fish such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel, fresh seaweed, dark green leafy vegetables, flaxseed oils, and certain vegetable oils.

The most interesting aspect of this article is the side mention that most individuals, especially pregnant women do not get enough omeg-3 fatty acids in their diet. Some of the best ways to get your omega-3's is through cold-water fish. These fish however are restricted due to the fact that they may be affected by methyl mercury.

Mercury is a chemical that has been linked to autism, but a lack of omega-3's leads to less language, poor motor skills and socialization difficulties. Maybe the problem is lack of omega-3's and not necessarily just the presence of mercury. That would be something interesting to look at.....

1 comment:

Andrew Livanis said...

As a follow-up to this study, I just recently read a monograph in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest named "Neurotoxicants, Micronutrients, and Social Environments
Individual and Combined Effects on Children's Development" by Laura Hubbs-Tait, Jack R. Nation, Nancy F. Krebs, and David C. Bellinger (2005; vol. 6, no.3)

This is a great monograph as it summarizes a lot of research on mercury, lead and other neurotoxicants both prenatally and during child development.

Just a note on the monograph series - it is a fantastic collection of various summaries of research on various topics.