Omega 3 Fatty Acid

A hot topic in nutrition over the last few years has been omega 3 fatty acid (O3FA) supplements.  O3FA occurs naturally in such foods as tuna, mackerel, salmon and sardines (“cold water fish”) as well as plant foods like soy, canola oil, tofu, and walnuts.  The evidence of its cardiac benefits are strong enough that the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 1gm/day O3FA for people with heart disease and 2-4 gm/d for people trying to lower serum triglycerides.  The AHA suggests eating cold water fish twice weekly to fulfill that goal.

An important note here is the interaction of O3FA with “O6FA” found in such foods as red meats, eggs, and oils.  Lowering the amount of these foods consumed improves that O3FA/O6FA ratio and can be of benefit here.

As with everything, there are some side effects and risks–abdominal pain, diarrhea, bleeding (avoid with blood thinners and don’t combine with ginko biloba), and exacerbating problems with low density lipoproteins (LDL).

I present this topic here because of the lack of benefit of O3FA supplements in the population that (I hope) reads this blog–pregnant women and families with kids.  The Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ) has thoroughly studied this issue and found the following:

  • no effect on risk of preterm birth
  • no effect on risk of low birth weight
  • small but insignificant increase in birthweight of healthy term infants
  • no effect on post partum depression
  • no effect on gestational hypertension or pre-eclampsia
  • no effect on postnatal growth with either maternal or postnatal supplementation
  • no effect on vision, neuro, or cognitive development
  • no effect on risk of autism, allergies, eczema, or respiratory diseases

So, as always, proper diet as recommended by obstetricians for you pregnant moms to be and for babies from your friendly, neighborhood pediatrician.  Consult your internist, cardiologist, or the AHA for concerns about heart disease or blood lipid problems.  But avoid fad diets, quick fixes, and miracle remedies–especially those presented on social media type platforms.  That’s not where one gets accurate information about this topic (or, likely, ANYTHING)

Send along questions and comments, and thanks for following.

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