Dr. Mercola’s Comments, Excerpted from www.mercola.com
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed that omega-3 fats benefit eye and cognitive development in babies, but stopped short of recommending additional supplementation. Their reasoning was that babies acquire most of the omega-3 fat DHA from breast milk, which appeared to contain an adequate supply of this healthy fat.
Typically I am completely in favor of obtaining your healthy fats, vitamins and other nutrients from the food you eat. However, animal-based omega-3’s are one exception where I believe taking a supplement is very important.
There are two major reasons for this. First, the food source of omega-3, which is fish and other seafood, is not a safe option. Unfortunately, the vast majority of our fish supply is now so heavily contaminated with industrial pollutants and toxins like mercury, PCBs, heavy metals and radioactive poisons that I just can?t recommend it any longer.
The second major reason why a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat supplement is so important is because many people, including pregnant women, are deficient. Since a fetus is dependent on the omega-3 fat from its mother?s diet, and a baby is also dependent on the omega-3 fat from this source as well (via breast milk), it?s essential that women have adequate supplies. Yet, most women do not get enough from diet alone.
Why Omega-3 Fat is So Important for Babies? Development
Omega-3 fat and its derivative DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are so essential to a child’s development that if a mother and infant are deficient in it, the child’s nervous system and immune system may never fully develop, and it can cause a lifetime of unexplained emotional, learning, and immune system disorders.
Omega-3s contain a powerhouse of nutrients to ensure that your baby will develop properly and reach its highest potential. These nutrients help to maximize the intelligence of your child, and protect your baby from brain injuries such as autism, pervasive developmental delay, and ADHD.
Because the fetus depends on the mother?s DHA sources, the constant drain on a mother’s DHA reserves can easily lead to a deficiency and some researchers believe that preeclampsia (pregnancy-related high blood pressure) and postpartum depression could be linked to a DHA deficiency — just one more reason why it?s so important to maintain your levels during pregnancy.
It is important to note that plant-based omega 3 fats do not provide the same benefits as animal-based, because most of us can?t convert the ALA in plant-based fats to the appropriate amount of DHA that is required.
So flax seeds, walnuts, and other plant sources of omega-3 should not be substituted for animal omega-3s. You simply will not receive the same benefits because they are not metabolized as efficiently. You will ultimately be relatively deficient in DHA and EPA if you rely completely on plant sources of omega-3, which have no EPA and DHA and must rely on your body to make the conversion of the ALA to the higher carbon chain fats.