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Is Omega-3 the New Prenatal Vitamin?

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola

Late-breaking news from Univadis reports that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids may improve the length of gestation, fetal weight and neonatal health outcomes. You can get omega-3s from your diet or from supplements, but what’s important to note is that, with preterm labor being a leading cause of neonatal morbidity and mortality, omega-3 supplementation may be an effective, prenatal preventive measure that moms-to-be can utilize.

The conclusions were drawn from a systematic literature review of randomized controlled trials using omega-3 fatty acid supplements versus a placebo.

If you think you’ve been hearing a lot of confusing news about omega-3 supplements, aka fish oil, lately, you’re not wrong. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and much of it comes from misreporting what the studies show. Why that’s happening is up to debate, but the bottom line is omega-3 benefits are indisputable.

From mental and behavioral health to prevention of premature death from disease, to prenatal health, omega-3s have been shown beneficial in prevention of these things and more, including the following:

  • Coronary heart disease and stroke
  • Essential fatty acid deficiency in infancy (retinal and brain development)
  • General brain function, including memory and Parkinson's disease
  • ADHD
  • Autoimmune disorders, e.g. lupus and nephropathy
  • Osteoporosis
  • Crohn's disease
  • Cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

The thing is, you may be running low on omega-3 and not even know it, especially since most people fail to consume sufficient amounts of omega-3 fats, making omega-3 deficiency likely the sixth biggest killer of Americans. This deficiency can cause or contribute to serious mental and physical health problems, and may be a significant underlying factor of up to 96,000 premature deaths each year.

If you’re looking to add omega-3 fats to your diet, wild-caught Alaskan salmon and very small fish like sardines are excellent sources. Beware of other fish, such as tuna, sea bass and marlin, which can contain high concentrations of mercury.

Also, avoid farmed salmon, which contains only about half of the omega-3 levels of wild salmon. It may also harbor a range of contaminants, including environmental toxins, synthetic astaxanthin, and harmful metabolic byproducts and agrichemical residues of GMO corn- and soy-based feed they are given.

If you’re wanting to supplement, fish oil is among the primary ways that people enhance their intake of omega-3 fats. High-quality fish oils can certainly provide many health benefits, but this oil is weak in antioxidants, which is why my preferred choice for animal-based fats is krill oil.

With an antioxidant potency 48 times higher than fish oil, krill also contains astaxanthin, a marine-source flavonoid that creates a special bond with the EPA and DHA to allow direct metabolism of the antioxidants, making them more bioavailable.

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