The Impact of Omega-3 on Fetal Development, Infants, Children and Adolescents
The importance of brain development during pregnancy
From the earliest stages of embryogenesis, the brain is an organ that is changing and developing constantly. It is the center of the extremely complex nervous system that dictates cognitive, motor, and intellectual development. These changes begin almost immediately, just three weeks after the formation of an embryo, and have a life-long impact on the child’s health.
It is no wonder that nourishing this delicate and powerful developing organ is paramount to expectant mothers and their healthcare providers. Everything that the mother consumes can have an impact on the brain. Because of this, healthcare providers and patients have sought to find ways to help promote healthy neural development during not only the fetal stage, but through childhood and well into the teenage and early adulthood years.
Omega-3’s role in brain development and health
Today in the United States expectant mothers are advised to take an Omega-3 supplement alongside their prenatal vitamin regimen. While this recommendation is in place to help support the health of the mother, it also supports the developing fetus. The subject of pregnancy and Omega-3 supplementation is still disputed. Most studies used fish oil as their Omega-3 source, which is very different from krill oil. At this very important stage of fetal development the proper supplementation with DHA, phospholipids and antioxidants is crucial; however, care must be taken to receive the right type of omega-3 avoiding high triglyceride products and being extra prudent about the level of natural contaminants, such as heavy metals, in the supplements consumed. The advice of a physician is recommended before taking krill oil or any supplements.
A recent study found that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is found in Omega-3 fatty acid supplements like krill oil, has a direct impact on neurogenesis and neurotransmitter metabolism as well as on visual function and learning. The maternal intake of DHA was shown to directly affect both fetal development as well as the development of a breastfed baby. The study concluded that low maternal DHA consumption lead to an increased risk of poor development of the child’s nervous system. Many studies have shown that children of mothers who ate a high DHA diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding and continued the same for their children’s daily nutrition had a decreased risk of poor infant and child visual and neural development.
As for children and adolescents, is the impact of DHA just as significant for them? Quite simply, yes. Children in North America, just like their parents, often eat a diet rich in pro-inflammatory omega-6 and poor in DHA, leading many healthcare providers to recommend a marine-based Omega-3 supplement like krill oil. The intake of DHA can help support a child’s behavioral health, as well as cognitive development in terms of learning, reading, and memory performance.*
While multiple factors and nutrients help support healthy neural development in infants, children, and adolescents, it is clear that Omega-3 fatty acids derived from marine sources play a crucial and upfront role. Cognitive health, memory performance, reading ability, emotional health, and attention span may all be supported through Omega-3 supplementation.
While additional studies continue to be conducted, parents and healthcare providers can help support children’s cognitive health by providing them with the critical nutrition they need in the developmental years. That cognitive health foundation will carry them through the rest of their lives.*
Why is Omega-3 an important part of your daily supplementation?
About the Author
Dr. Tina Sampalis, M.D., Ph.D., joined Neptune Technologies and Bioressources, Inc. in 2000. Dr. Sampalis is an oncology surgeon trained in physiology at McGill University, medicine at the University of Patras (Greece), dermatology at GöttingenUniversity (Germany) and Marselisborg University (Denmark), pediatric, general and oncology surgery at the University of Athens (Greece), graduate training (Ph.D.) in Surgical Research at the University of Athens and a second Ph.D. in Epidemiology and Experimental Surgery at McGill University. She has received several international scholarships and awards for her work on the clinical implementation of retinols for skin and breast cancer, including the Helen Hutchison Award for geriatric medicine. Her work on scintimammography resulted in her appointment at the International Educational Speakers Bureau, the Canadian and U.S. Faculty of Medical Speakers for Breast Imaging. As an international scholar she leads the development and implementation of innovative micro-invasive and stereotactic robotic surgical techniques for breast cancer, for which a U.S. and Canadian patent application has been filed. She is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Medicine. Dr. Sampalis has published papers in multiple peer reviewed publications.