The typical North American eats lots of meat - and not much fish. Fish is a source of omega-3 fats, which are essential to human health and neurological development. Our omega-3 deficient diets may be having a significant impact on our children's developments, say researchers from British Columbia.
In this new study, the Child & Family Research Institute (CFRI) randomly assigned 135 pregnant women to either a daily omega-3 supplement, or a placebo. All the women continued eating their regular diets - and supplementing - for the duration of their pregnancies.
Measures of DHA (docasohexaenoic acid) were taken at 16 and 36 weeks of gestation. DHA is an essential omega-3 fats that's known to be important for brain and eye function.
Shortly after birth, the babies did vision tests to determine their level of neurological development. Since the eyes are connected to the brain, these tests would reflect brain development in young infants.
From as early as two months of age, a noticeable difference could be seen in these babies.
Women who ate high amounts of meat - and little fish - were deficient in DHA, and their babies didn't test as well as the babies of mothers with high levels of DHA from their diet and supplements.
Previous studies have linked higher IQ in infants to high fish intake during pregnancy.
The supplement used in this study added the equivalent of two fatty fish meals per week - 400 milligram per day. Canada's Food Guide recommends eating at least two servings of fatty fish every week.
Health Canada has advised that predator fish - tuna, shark, swordfish, escolar, marlin and orange roughy - may be high in mercury. Pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and women who might become pregnant should limit their intake of these fish to 150 grams (5 ounces) per month.
Choosing fatty fish over red meat is an excellent way to boost your essential omega-3 fat intake. Try grilled salmon or artic char in place of you steak and serve along side a baked sweet potato and side salad for more nutrient-dense dinner.
Proper nutrition during pregnancy is a good way to safeguard the health of both mother and child. Omega-3 fat is just one of the essential nutrients that are necessary for human growth and development.
Researchers say further investigation is needed to discover the impact of pre-natal omega-3 intake on childhood obesity and heart disease.
This study was published on March 7th, 2008 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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