Every person is likely to have different dietary needs, depending on their health, lifestyle and external factors. However, everyone will need to consume the right macronutrients, which include fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, and the right micronutrients, which include vitamins and minerals, at the amounts proportionate to their bodies’ needs to ensure proper development of our bodily systems and maintain good health.
Our bodies might be capable of producing small amounts of certain nutrients, but not enough for us to be self-sustainable; meaning we need to get our daily nutrition requirements from food and, if necessary, dietary supplements.
This article focuses on a particular micronutrient: omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids typically play an essential role in our brain and heart health, and are usually recommended for pregnant women as they benefit both the mother and fetus. Diet Standards Prenatal DHA contains a great amount of omega-3 for your health.
Continue reading to learn more!
What are omega-3 fatty acids?
Firstly, fatty acids are definitely not bad for the body; they are completely different from unhealthy fats, such as saturated and trans fats. Fatty acids are a main component of fats used by the body for energy and tissue growth.
Are there different kinds of omega-3 fatty acids?
There are three main kinds of omega-3 fatty acids:
1. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
This is found mainly in plants and plant oils, such as flaxseeds, flaxseed oils, chia seeds, soybeans, walnuts, and canola oils.
This is an essential fatty acid, as the human body is incapable of producing this on its own. However, our body is capable of converting some ALA into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and then into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), but only in very small amounts. We, therefore, must contain foods and beverages that contain ALA to get it.
Various health benefits from consuming ALA include improving heart health, lowering blood pressure, and treating diabetes.
2. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
This is found mainly in flesh of cold water fish, including herring, mackerel, halibut, tuna, cod liver, and salmon. It can also be synthesized from ALA.
Including more EPA into one’s diet can bring about positive effects towards and counter against coronary heart disease, high triglycerides (fats in the blood), high blood pressure, and inflammation.
3. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
This is found mainly in flesh of cold water fish, including salmon, mackerel, tilefish, and striped bass, fish oil, and algae. It can also be synthesized from ALA.
DHA levels are typically high in the retina (eye) and brain. Therefore, consuming enough DHA is necessary as it is essential in the development of the brain, maintain vision and heart health, and combats inflammation.
Why are omega-3 fatty acids important for our health?
Omega-3s are important components of the membranes that surround each cell in the body. They provide the calories we need for energy, and provide support for the heart, blood vessels, lungs, immune system, and endocrine system.
Certain studies have found that individuals who eat fish and other seafood, thus consuming adequate amounts of omega-3, are at lower risk of several chronic diseases. Here are some examples of what the research has shown:
1. Infant health and development
Some studies have found that taking supplements for EPA and DHA during pregnancy may slightly increase a baby’s weight at birth.
As omega-3s are crucial for brain growth and development in fetuses and infants, it has been found that infants that were fed a DHA-fortified formula have better eyesight than infants who were fed formula that was not DHA-fortified.
Getting enough omega-3s during pregnancy also provides various benefits for the fetus, as it has been found that mothers who consumed adequate to high amounts of omega-3 during pregnancy gave birth to children who later displayed increased intelligence, better communication and social skills, fewer behavioral problems, decreased risk of developmental delay, and decreased risk of ADHD, autism, and cerebral palsy.
2. Cardiovascular health
Many studies have found that eating fatty fish and other seafood regularly helped keep the heart healthy and protect it from heart problems and diseases. Furthermore, consuming more EPA and DHA, either from food or supplements, helped lower triglyceride levels.
Other benefits include reducing blood pressure levels, maintaining “good” DHL cholesterol levels, preventing the formation of harmful blood clots, keeping the arteries smooth and free from damage, and preventing plaque from restricting and hardening the arteries.
3. Reduce inflammation
Inflammation is not always a negative thing; the occurrence is actually vital for your health as it is a natural response to infections and damage in the body. One example would be muscle wear and tear from strenuous exercise.
However, chronic, or long-term, inflammation is an issue, which is where inflammation persists for a long time even without an infection or injury, and contributes to many illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer.
Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation, and studies have observed a connection between higher omega-3 intake and reduced inflammation. This also aids in quicker muscle recovery for after exercise and heavy physical activity.
4. Cancer prevention
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in Western countries. Some studies have found an association between individuals who get more omega-3s and having lower risk of breast cancer and, perhaps, colorectal cancer. For instance, studies show that people who consume omega-3s have a lower risk of getting colon cancer up to 55 percent.
5. Improve bone and joint health
Common disorders that affect the skeleton include osteoporosis and arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis can cause chronic pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in the joints; clinical trials have found that taking omega-3 supplements may help manage rheumatoid arthritis, combined with other necessary medications. Other studies have found that bone strength can be improved by omega-3 consumption as it helps boost calcium in the bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis. With increased omega-3 levels, joint pain can be reduced and increase grip strength in the previously weakened joints.
What foods contain omega-3?
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods, such as fish as well as certain plants and nut oils, such as flaxseeds. They are also available in dietary supplement form, such as fish oil. For those that are allergic to fish, rest assured that a vegan alternative is available: algae.
Diet Standards Prenatal DHA is a dietary supplement for omega-3 that comes in vegan capsules, making them completely fish, and any other animal, free.
How much omega-3 should be consumed?
Experts have not established recommended amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, except for ALA. The amount of ALA needed per person depends on their age and sex.
The average recommended amounts of ALA per day is listed below:
- Birth to 12 months* — 0.5 grams
- Children 1-3 years — 0.7 grams
- Children 4-8 years — 0.9 grams
- Boys 9-13 years — 1.2 grams
- Girls 9-13 years — 1.0 grams
- Teen boys 14-18 years — 1.6 grams
- Teen boys 14-18 years — 1.1 grams
- Men — 1.6 grams
- Women — 1.1 grams
- Pregnant teens and women — 1.4 grams
- Breastfeeding teens and women — 1.3 grams
*As total omega-3s; all other values are for ALA alone.
When should you start and stop taking omega-3 supplements while pregnant?
It is best to consult with your doctor or professional healthcare provider before you begin taking any supplements.
Ideally, taking omega-3 supplements as early as possible during the pregnancy would be good for the baby. Continuing to consume the supplements even after the baby has been born is also permitted as the baby can still obtain enough amounts of omega-3 through breastfeeding.
What is a recommended omega-3 supplement for pregnancy?
We recommend Diet Standards Prenatal DHA. It is better than other omega-3 supplements as it is contains no mercury, for it is 100% vegan.
Other omega-3 supplements tend to be fish-based, posing a risk of it containing mercury that could damage one’s health in the long-term. Furthermore, fish-based supplements may not be suitable for those who have an allergy to fish or seafood, do not like fish or seafood, or are vegan or vegetarian.
Diet Standards Prenatal DHA is made from algae oil and its soft gels are derived from red edible seaweed that is grown in a clean, sustainable environment. Therefore, our product contains no allergens, fish, shellfish, milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat or soy.
Each soft gel contains 150 mg of DHA, suitable for your needs. It is easy to swallow and leaves no aftertaste.
Our product is manufactured in the USA. We ensure that every batch is lab-tested every time; a third party laboratory tests each batch before it goes to market to ensure our products meet or exceed specifications for purity, potency, heavy metals, and microbes.
Is omega-3 rich food or supplements recommended while breastfeeding?
Yes – It is recommended to ensure the baby receives adequate amounts of omega-3 for their health and development. Breast milk, as well as most commercial infant formulas, contain DHA, which is beneficial for eye and brain health.
Can omega-3s be harmful?
It should be noted that omega-3 dietary supplements have the potential to interact with medications. Therefore, you will need to consult with your doctor or professional healthcare provider before taking any omega-3 or DHA supplements.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends consuming no more than 3 grams per day of EPA and DHA combined. Anyone who requires higher doses, such as for lowering triglycerides, should be under the care of a healthcare provider, as high doses may cause bleeding problems and affect the immune system.
Other side effects from taking omega-3 supplements tend to be mild, such as bad breath, heartburn, nausea or dizziness, stomach discomfort or bloating, and headaches.
Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential micronutrient for our health. Consuming enough omega-3 daily can help maintain eye and brain health, among others. It is particularly beneficial for pregnant women as it is benefits the mother as well as the fetus, particularly in brain development. Diet Standards Prenatal DHA is a vegan-derived omega-3 supplement which is a great alternative for those who are vegan or allergic to or have a distaste towards fish.
- “Diet Standards Prenatal DHA,” Diet Standards, 2020, https://www.amazon.com/Diet-Standards-Prenatal-DHA-Algae-Based/dp/B01FGCTZFW/
- “Omega-3 Fatty Acids,” National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, 2019, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/
- “What Is Alpha-Linolenic Acid,” Organic Facts, 2020, https://www.organicfacts.net/alpha-linolenic-acid.html
- “Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA),” Mount Sinai, https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/eicosapentaenoic-acid-epa
- “What is Docosahexaenoic acid,” Health Benefits Times, 2019, https://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/nutrition/docosahexaenoic-acid/
- “17 Science-Based Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids,” Healthline, 2018, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-health-benefits-of-omega-3#section4