DHA Importance During Breast Feeding

For many years I’ve strongly recommended to my perinatal patients that they take a high dose DHA fish oil supplement. DHA is docosahexaenoic acid found in fatty fish which is one of the beneficial longer chain fatty acids we get from fish – the other being EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). I’m not sure where I first learned of the benefits of DHA for the brain and using it during pregnancy, but it makes sense given the plethora of research on its neurological benefits.

I had my wife take a high DHA fish oil throughout pregnancy and 2 years of breast feeding. The proof is in the pudding as our child will be attending Harvard next fall. He is only 2 years old.

OK just kidding about Harvard, but he does seem pretty smart – (however every parent thinks that of their kids.)

A recent study looked at using DHA for only the first 4 months of breastfeeding and found that there was significant improvement in attention span at 5 years of age!   Mothers in the treatment group received 200mg/day of algae oil .  Some caveats as there may be a difference in absorption between fish oil and algea.  Also some of these mothers breast fed for more than two months and my have taken DHA during pregnancy. Even given these issues it is reaffirming to find that there was measurable behavior improvement several years later in the DHA group.

So how much to take?  Typically we get DHA from fish oils and I typically use about 800-900mg/day of DHA.  The quality of the oil is important as recent studies have shown that many fish oils are tainted.  I like using professional brands that can provide a 3 party certificate of analysis so I know it has been thoroughly tested.  (this is beyond the government testing standards – or some “Gold Standard Certificate” stated on websites like Mercola.com – they are just paying for a label.)  Professional brands like Pharmax, Designs for Health, Xymogen and others are ones that I trust.

So if you know anyone that is pregnant make sure they start taking fish oils or an algae based DHA to support their child’s neuropsychological development.

Yours In Health,

George Mandler
Licensed Acupuncturist
Licensed Dietitian
Certified Nutrition Specialist

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