What is Diet Standards Prenatal DHA?
DHA supports brain development in babies.
Diet Standards Prenatal DHA is an Omega-3 supplement that contains DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) in proportions specifically formulated for you and your baby.
What are what EPA and DHA?
EPA and DHA are Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids. In short, these are the “healthy fats” you hear about so much in fish and fish oil. Most people don’t get enough of these, as we explain below.
Is this a Prenatal Multi-Vitamin?
No. You should take Diet Standards Prenatal DHA along with a Prenatal Multivitamin.
This is NOT a substitute for a prenatal multivitamin.
Think of it this way:
- Not Pregnant = “Multivitamin + Fish Oil”
- Pregnant = “Prenatal + DHA”
When you see “Prenatal” they are generally talking about a “Prenatal Multivitamin”.
When you see “Prenatal DHA” they are generally talking about an Omega-3 supplement.
You need to take both for optimal health and fetal development.
Prenatal Multivitamins (often shortened to “Prenatal”) are basically the same as a non-pregnancy multivitamin, but with very minor formulation changes such as increased folic acid, iron, and calcium. A prenatal multivitamin covers your micronutrient needs such as Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Magnesium, Biotin, Copper, Zinc, etc… Prenatal Multivitamins usually do NOT contain any Omega-3 fatty acids.
Diet Standards Prenatal DHA is NOT a multivitamin. It is an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement similar to a non-pregnancy fish oil, except with very minor formulation changes such as an increased DHA to EPA ratio. It does not contain any other vitamins, so you should take it in addition to your normal prenatal multivitamin.
Why is Diet Standards Prenatal DHA better?
The majority of Omega-3 products are derived from fish.
Fish Oil has major problems:
– High heavy metal content (Mercury, Lead, Cadmium, Arsenic) in many fish species
– Fish populations are dwindling and commercial fishing is unsustainable
– Softgels are typically made with animal-derived gelatin
Not to mention…fish burps are gross!
Our products are derived from Algae Oil instead. They contain the same Omega-3 EPA and DHA, but without all the downsides of traditional fish oil.
We have a mission here at Diet Standards. Our goal is to become the #1 producer of Omega-3 products in the world. This way we can drive out inferior fish-derived products with clean algae oil.
Are there any animal products in Diet Standards Prenatal DHA?
No. Diet Standards does not use any animal products in our Prenatal DHA.
The DHA/EPA is derived from algae oil. The softgels are made with Carrageenan, a polysaccharide extracted from red edible seaweed.
Most competing products are made from dead fish (fish oil) and the extracted remains of slaughterhouse animals (gelatin).
Are there any allergens (gluten, dairy, nuts, etc…) in Prenatal DHA?
Diet Standards Prenatal DHA is free of Gluten, Milk, and many other common allergens. If you have an allergy, please read through the allergen documents (posted on this page) carefully before taking this product.
Why is Algae Oil better than Fish Oil?
In one word: Clean.
We could blather on and on about how horrible commercial fishing is and how disgusting gelatin products are, but truth be told there is only one reason you should take algae oil over fish oil:
(Source: Wikipedia “Mercury in Fish“)
Where is algae oil in the above picture? Nowhere.
Our Algae Oil is grown in a clean environment separated from pollution and runoff. Algae is the primary producer and does not collect heavy metals and toxins the way predators like fish do.
That’s why 3rd party lab tests consistently show Diet Standards Prenatal DHA is the cleanest Prenatal DHA money can buy.
How does Diet Standard’s Prenatal DHA compare to other over-the-counter DHA products?
Diet Standards Prenatal DHA derives it’s DHA/EPA directly from the source, algae. Most Prenatal DHAs on the market get their DHA/EPA from fish. Fish have a higher level of mercury and heavy metals.
Mercury has been shown to have negative effects on the human body, not to mention a unborn baby which is especially sensitive to toxins.
I missed a dose, should I take twice as much next time?
Prenatal DHA is not harmful at double or more of the normal dosage. But we don’t recommend playing “catch up”.
If you miss a dose, forget about it and continue normal dosing the next day.
How much DHA should I be taking?
We recommend you consume 3 softgels daily, for a total of 450mg DHA and 225mg EPA.
The National Institutes of Health recommends that women consume at least 300mg of DHA daily during pregnancy and lactation. Some studies show the average female intake in North America is only 39-59mg of DHA daily.
Do I need to take Diet Standard’s Prenatal DHA on an empty stomach or with food?
DHA and EPA is better absorbed in the body when taken with a meal. Plus taking any pills (even small softgels) without food can cause stomach pain for some people.
While we recommend taking Prenatal DHA with a meal, you can also take it without food.
You can either spread the dosage out several times per day or take it all at once. Your choice.
Can I take this product if I’m not pregnant.
We have 20 year old men who lift weights taking this stuff. We also have 70 year old grandmothers taking it. Diet Standards Prenatal DHA is safe for anyone.
If you take a fish oil product, then Diet Standards Prenatal DHA is perfect for you. Don’t let the “Prenatal” label turn you off.
Don’t believe us? Just look at the label contents of DHA and EPA and compare that to your existing fish oil.
Should I take Prenatal DHA while breast feeding?
In fact, your baby needs DHA just as much (if not more) during breastfeeding as during pregnancy.
We highly recommend taking the same dosage during lactation. Do NOT stop taking the product when you give birth.
Is too much DHA harmful?
It is very hard to take too much DHA. It’s been shown that women that take upwards of 1200 mg and more of DHA a day still have no negative effects during pregnancy.
The Food and Drug Administration have determined that up to 3,000 mg of DHA/EPA per day from all sources (diet + supplements) is generally considered safe for most adults.
That said, arbitrarily taking mega-doses of Omega-3 is not necessarily better. In fact, way too much Omega-3 can have just as many side effects as too little. Remember the “Goldilocks Principle” when taking supplements. You want the dosage to be “Just Right”. Not too much and not too little.
Of course, always talk to your doctor about all supplements you take. This goes double if you have specific health problems.
I was reading an article that said not to take too much Rosemary Extract during pregnancy, but I noticed that there is Rosemary Extract in Diet Standards Prenatal DHA. What’s the deal here?
Rosemary Extract is used in small quantities as a natural antioxidant. The concentration is 3 mg/g Algae Oil or 0.3% by wt.
Within the Unites States (US) rosemary extracts have received a GRAS status (21 CFR 182.20) which has also been affirmed by the US FDA. Rosemary extract is also listed in FDA’s Everything Added to Food (US) database. The use of rosemary extract has a general recognition of safety and can be used in specific foods, including dietary supplements. Rosemary extract is classified as a natural flavor by the FDA 21 CFR 101.22
Rosemary Extract is 0.3% of the Algae Oil in Diet Standards Prenatal DHA. For a standard 1,500mg dose of Diet Standards Prenatal DHA, Rosemary Extract intake would be 4.5mg.
This is a very small amount. To put the quantity into perspective, we have to look at the scientific studies of Rosemary Extract:
90-day rat feeding studies using Rosemary Extracts were shown as safe using amounts in the range of 180-400mg extract/kg body weight/day.
For a 120 pound woman, this would be the equivalent of taking 9,818mg-21,818mg Rosemary Extract per day.
In this study, safety was shown with nearly 5,000 times the amount of Rosemary Extract present in a single dose of Diet Standards Prenatal DHA. To put this into perspective, safety was established for the amount of Rosemary Extract in 14,545 softgels of Diet Standards Prenatal DHA!
To say the amount in this product is “negligible” would be an understatement. In fact, based on Rosemary Extract’s low use level in Diet Standards Prenatal DHA, it could conceivably be considered a processing aide in the finished product, which would not require labeling. However, we have decided to stay 100% transparent in noting the presence of this compound in the finished product.
The European Food Safety Authority notes “The toxicological data on the rosemary extracts are insufficient to establish a numerical ADI [adequate daily intake], because the toxicity data set does not provide reproductive toxicity studies or a long term study. On the other hand, the existing data, including the absence of effects in the 90-day studies on
reproductive organs and lack of genotoxicity, do not give reason for concern. ”
The same research paper goes on to state “Based on the margins of safety identified, the Panel concluded that the use of rosemary extracts at the proposed uses and use levels would not be of safety concern.”
You can read the full European Food Safety Authority research report regarding use of Rosemary Extracts as a food additive here: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/scientific_output/files/main_documents/721.pdf
You can see the Diet Standards Algae Oil Specifications and Data Sheets here:
You can see Diet Standards 3rd Party Lab Test Results here:
We recommend NOT supplementing with medicinal amounts of any herb (including Rosemary Extract) without talking to your doctor. The key here is AMOUNT. Always remember the old adage “the dose makes the poison”.
4.5 milligrams of Rosemary Extract in your Prenatal DHA is 100% safe.
Consuming 10,000 times this amount by eating several whole rosemary plants straight from the garden is probably not a good idea. Use common sense and realize that dosage matters.
Do the Prenatal DHA softgels need to be refrigerated or just stored at room temperature?
I noticed Carrageenan listed on the label. What is it? Is it safe?
Carrageenan is Red Seaweed Extract. It has been used safely in the food industry since the fifteenth Century. This Seaweed Extract replaces animal-based Gelatin so that we can offer Vegan Softgels.
One important note is that there are two distinct types of Carrageenan: Degraded and Undegraded. The Degraded type is also known as “polygeenan”. Degraded Polygeenan is an industrial chemical that is not food safe. You may have seen the scientific study that linked degraded polygeenan to inflammation and cancer in lab animals.
It’s important to note that we use only food-grade Undegraded Carrageenan. This type of carrageenan was confirmed safe by an independent international panel of expert scientists at the 57th meeting of the World Health Organization and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
For details, you can read the full Carrageenan Report here:
Most of our competitors use cheaper Gelatin in their softgels. We feel Seaweed Extract (Carrageenan) is a better alternative than ground up animal parts from slaughterhouses.
Where can I buy Diet Standard’s Prenatal DHA?
Our only authorized retailer of Diet Standards Prenatal DHA is “Origin Products” on Amazon. You can buy the product here.
The dietary supplement industry is flooded with counterfeiters and fake products. We strongly recommend you NOT buy products from eBay, other sellers on Amazon, or your local back alley drug dealer. Saving a few dollars is not worth the risk to you and your baby.
DHA Formulation Ideas and Discussion
DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid 22:6-n3) – 300mg per day
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid 20:5-n3) – 150mg per day
Pregnant & Nursing Mothers
- Work with your doctor first. Go to all required doctor visits during your pregnancy. Follow your doctor’s recommendations first.
- Supplement with 300mg DHA, 150mg EPA, and 500mg (or more) ALA per day
- Eat 2 servings of low-mercury fish each week. (Salmon, Oyster, Tilapia, Hake, Sardine, Anchovies, Pollock, Herring, Catfish)
- Follow the National Institutes of Health general recommendations for nutrition during pregnancy
- Eat a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods. Fruits, Vegetables, Lean Meats, Fats, etc. Aim for moderation and variety.
- Do not avoid any specific food groups unless you have a diagnosed medical condition precluding you from eating them.
- Eat enough calories. Use a calorie calculator to calculate your caloric expenditure. Then add enough extra calories to cover your baby’s development.
- Eat 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of lean body mass. (1 gram per pound of bodyweight).
Helms et al determined “…most but not all bodybuilders will respond best to consuming 2.3-3.1 g/kg of lean body mass per day of protein, 15-30% of calories from fat, and the reminder of calories from carbohydrate.” (1) Most people are not body builders, however in this case we are focusing on synthesizing lean body mass which would likely carry over to prenatal nutrition as well. Usually under higher calorie conditions you can lower protein intake from this level, however pregnant woman are slowly building another human body, so higher protein applies. We also recommend getting 30% of your calories from fat during pregnancy, since you will likely have higher fat needs and lower carbohydrate needs.
- Avoid foods and drugs that should not be eaten/taken during pregnancy. These include, but are not limited to: Green Tea, Cigarettes, Excess Caffeine, Alcohol, etc…
Men and Women who are Not Pregnant or Nursing
- Supplement with 300mg DHA and 150mg EPA
- Follow most of the “Healthy Pregnancy Recommendations” above. Omit the parts about doctor visits, calories for your baby’s development, and avoiding green tea. But follow everything else.
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs) are essential for human life. We will be looking specifically at Omega-3 and Omega-6 PUFAs. These compounds are used in all parts of the bodies of mammals.
In one study, Lin and Salem supplemented fat-free fed rats with Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, then sacrificed the rats at various times(2). The rats were dissected and each part of their body was analyzed separately for PUFA content. From this study it can be seen that the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids were generally present in all parts of the mammalian body. Some specific fatty acids like Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) accrued in greater quantities in the brain, central nervous system, and retina.
The key aspect here is balance. PUFAs are not a “holy grail” for perfect health. Once we correct any deficiencies, adding more PUFAs will not necessarily result in increased health. They will simply get used for energy or stored as body fat. However, most people eating Western Diets are deficient in certain PUFAs, including EPA, DHA, and ALA. (3)
Polyunsaturated fatty acids start as a “parent fatty acid” which is either Linoleic Acid (LA 18:2-n6) for Omega-6 fatty acids or Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA 18:3-n3) for Omega-3 fatty acids. These parent fatty acids can be converted by the body into other fatty acids further down the chain.
However, this conversion process is inefficient and the body is often not able to meet it’s intake needs of these fatty acids further down the chain. (4). Estimates range from <5% to 21% of ALA converting to EPA and <1% to 9% of ALA converting to DHA.(5)
Even more importantly, these conversions often share resources. If the body has to convert one fatty acid into another it may have less resources to convert other fatty acids.
As an analogy, imagine a car factory. The input being steel (Alpha Linolenic Acid ALA 18:3-n3). This steel is then assembled into a simple car chassis (Stearidonic Acid SDA 18:4-n3), then wheels are added to make a rolling chassis (Eicosatetraenoic acid ETA 20:4-n3). These steps are repeated until finally you have a drivable working car (Docosahexaenoic acid DHA 22:6-n3).
The factory may not have enough resources to complete many cars in a single day. You may need 300 cars (300mg of DHA) but the factory is only producing 10 cars (10mg DHA). Or the Omega-6 factory next door may be using all the resources to produce city busses (Arachidonic Acid AA 20:4-n6) and you can only produce 5 cars (5mg DHA).
This analogy is an oversimplification but the end result is the same. The body only has so many resources to convert polyunsaturated fatty acids from one form to another.
Fortunately for us, we can get “preformed” fatty acids in our diet. Fish, as one example, are high in preformed EPA and DHA, while being relatively low in ALA and other fatty acids. Flaxseed oil is high in ALA but not a commonly used cooking oil.
Going back to our analogy, rather than trying to force the body to produce 300 cars from raw materials, we can simply give it 300 cars.
Let’s take a look at the specific PUFA’s that are both needed during pregnancy and also deficient in a Western Diet.
Not pregnant? Keep reading. Chances are you are also deficient, and if you care about your nervous system (brain) and cardiovascular (heart) health this information also applies to you.
The 3 Ingredients: DHA, EPA, ALA
In a rat study by Lin and Salem(2), DHA accrued preferentially in the brain and central nervous system over time. The charts below show this effect:
One study showed of women in an Icelandic fishing community showed that “Infant size at birth increased with fish consumption, especially for women in the lower quartiles of consumption.”(6) Increased size and weight at birth is a positive marker of infant health. Keep in mind that the key here is balance. The same study noted “Infants of women in the highest quartile of fish oil intake (≥1 tablespoon (11 ml)/day), consuming threefold the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin A and twofold that of vitamin D, were shorter (p = 0.036) and had a smaller head circumference (p = 0.003) than those of women consuming less…smaller birth size was linked to the highest levels of fish oil intake. Constituents of fish and fish oil might affect birth size differently depending on the amount consumed.”
In one randomized controlled trial by Olsen et al, healthy Danish women were either given a fish oil supplement (fish group) or an olive oil supplement (control group). Pregnancies in the fish group were 4.0 days longer and resulted in a birthweight that was 107g higher.(8)
Bottom Line: Unless you eat a lot of fish already, your dietary intake of DHA is likely sub-optimal. If you are pregnant it is absolutely critical to correct this immediately.
If we analyze the PUFA content of fish we see that the majority of the fatty acids are from EPA and DHA.
Alaska Pollock contains 0.22% by weight EPA & DHA, and 0.29% total Omega-3s (fully 76% of omega-3 fatty acids as EPA & DHA). Wild salmon contains 83% of Omega-3s as EPA & DHA. Farmed Salmon contains 63% of Omega-3s as EPA & DHA.(9)
In addition to birthweight and size, DHA also shows evidence towards greater cognitive development and visual acuity. The US Department of Agriculture studied the subject and concluded “in particular DHA from at least two servings of seafood per week during pregnancy and lactation is associated with increased DHA levels in breast milk and improved infant health outcomes, such as visual acuity and cognitive development. Two servings per week is the equivalent of approximately 8 ounces per week, which should provide an average 250 milligrams per day of DHA and EPA.”(10)
The major problem is that a Western Diet with very low fish intake fish intake is extremely low in DHA.(11)
The National Institutes of Health recommends pregnant and lactating women get “300mg of DHA daily”.(12) Dr. James Greenberg recommends “the dietary goal for omega-3 fatty acids is 650 mg, of which 300 is DHA” while keeping mercury intake very low.(13) These recommendations are both in line with research data.
DHA Daily Supplementation Level: 300mg per day
EPA does not accrue to appreciable levels in the brain and central nervous system(2), so it tends to be ignored in prenatal health. Most infant formula and prenatal supplements on the market today attempt to minimize EPA intake as much as possible, often trying to completely eliminate EPA from the formulation.
These same groups will also stand by the recommendation that pregnant women also eat 2 servings of low-mercury fish per week. The reason is that we frequently find a correlation between increasing fish intake and better birth outcomes in Western Diets.(15)
The irony here is that fish contain both EPA and DHA in high concentrations. Compared to DHA, Salmon contains 52% as much EPA, Alaskan Pollock contains 63% as much EPA, Herring contains 76% as much EPA.
There is data that EPA is required in the human body in some degree or another. In one study, omnivores and vegetarians supplemented with only DHA showed a retroconversion of DHA to EPA of 9.4%(16). This indicates that the body needed some level of EPA for normal functioning and was forced to retroconvert that EPA from DHA. Since we know that PUFA conversion pathways compete for resources, this retroconversion could possibly inhibit the ability of the body to convert other fatty acids. In this study, Arachidonic Acid (AA 20:4-n6), Docosapentaenoic Acid (22:5-n6), and Docosapentaenoic Acid (DPA 22:5-n3) all decreased, possibly indicating the body did not have enough resources to convert all these compounds due to the DHA to EPA conversion load.
We do not know if a 9.4% conversion ratio provided optimal levels of EPA in the body. Given the fish ratios of 52-76% EPA it likely did not. It is likely that pregnant women supplemented with only DHA will be deficient in EPA.
Dr James Greenberg sums up the importance of EPA balance in his research report titled “Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation During Pregnancy”:
“EPA, but not DHA, has been positively correlated with mRNA expression of all membrane proteins. Thus, higher maternal EPA concentrations may increase FATP expression (FATP-4 in particular) that, in turn, has been shown to increase cord blood DHA levels…Because only about 4% to 11% of DHA is retroconverted to EPA, pregnant women who just take DHA supplements, without any dietary EPA, may be unable to produce the right balance of eicosanoids and may limit the transport and uptake of DHA into fetal cells.”(13)
We can speculate that a fetus in the womb will require different levels of nutrients than a young infant. That said, we can still look at the DHA and EPA ratios in human breastmilk to get an idea of the approximate values of EPA and DHA transmitted to infants, and thus possibly also required by a developing fetus. Compared to DHA, breastmilk contains on average 66% as much EPA, with the level dropping as low as 44% EPA and going as high as 100% EPA depending on regional diet.(17)
Clearly there is a need for EPA in the human body. If preformed EPA can be provided in a balanced ratio of DHA:EPA, then we can free up conversion pathways for the body to successfully convert other PUFAs.
EPA Daily Supplementation Level: 150mg per day
Fish Oil vs Algae
There are two different sources for DHA and EPA supplementation: Fish and Algae.
The marine food chain actually starts at algae. Algae are the “primary producer” which are then consumed by other organisms. Finally, much higher up the food chain are large fish, krill, squid, and apex predators.
By the time you get up the chain to fish, these animals have accrued DHA and EPA stores in their fat due to having directly or indirectly eaten algae.
Most people immediately think of fish oil when they consider a DHA supplement. But there are a number of problems with fish oil supplements:
- Spoilage – Fish oil can spoil or go “rancid”. This happens even faster when the oil is heated and cooled during transport and storage. Various antioxidants are usually added to counteract this, but rancid fish oil is still much more common than you might think.
- Contaminants – Fish can collect heavy metals such as Mercury and Lead as well as pollutants such as PCBs and Dioxins in their fatty tissue. Algae can be grown in a clean environment free of these pollutants.
- Overfishing – Global peak fishing occurred in 1996 and some experts are saying current fishing levels are unsustainable.(28) The United Nations reported that fully 2/3 of the world’s fish are either depleted or fully exploited.(29) Algae are farmed in simple systems on land and actually absorb CO2 and produce oxygen as a byproduct of their production. No fish need to be harvested to produce algae oil, and carbon impact of algae cultivation can actually be negative!
- Environmental Impact – One 120 calorie serving of fish actually requires 207 calories of diesel fuel to catch it.(28) Not to mention the impact on human time, capital, and resources needed to capture the fish and transport it to a processing facility. In contrast, algae is grown in a simple water system that takes significantly fewer resources to cultivate. An algae farm powered by renewable energy would be 100% sustainable and require zero fossil fuels.
- Vegetarians/Vegans – Algae oils are plant-based supplements that can be consumed by people who cannot eat animals.
- Taste & Smell – Many fish oils have a “fishy” taste and cause the dreaded “fish burps”. Algae oils do not have these problems. Because of the taste and smell issues, almost all baby formulas supplemented with DHA use algae oil instead of fish oil.
Algae-based sources of DHA and EPA are far superior to fish oil and krill oil.
The problem is the marketplace has not caught up to the technology and many supplement manufacturers still use fish oil. Fish oil is easier to source and can be cheaper to purchase. But that does not make it better.
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Thorsdottir, I., Birgisdottir, B. E., Halldorsdottir, S., & Geirsson, R. T. (2004). Association of Fish and Fish Liver Oil Intake in Pregnancy with Infant Size at Birth among Women of Normal Weight before Pregnancy in a Fishing Community. Retrieved February 23, 2016, from http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/160/5/460.full
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Changes & Updates
Arachidonic Acid (AA 20:4-n6) was mentioned in a previous version of this article as a potential supplement for pregnant women. We strongly recommend against the use of arachidonic acid supplementation during pregnancy.
The western diet is high in Omega-6 fatty acids, including arachidonic acid. While arachidonic acid intake may be low in certain populations (vegetarians and vegans for example), arachidonic acid is released in high amounts during partuition (birth). High intakes of arachidonic acid could potentially cause pre-term birth.
If you are in a group with low meat intake we recommend discussing with your doctor testing arachidonic acid levels and carefully assessing safe intake options. Also, carefully consider the option of including some animal products in your diet during your pregnancy.
Arachidonic acid is present in breast milk and most infant formula, and is a necessary fatty acid to include after your baby is born.
Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA)
Optimal Supplementation Level: 500mg+ per day
Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA 18:3-n3) is the parent Omega-3 fatty acid. Research indicates that human beings evolved on a diet of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids in a ratio of close to 1:1. Western Diets now contain a ratio closer to 15:1 to 16.7:1 Omega-3 to Omega-6 (25). This imbalance is thought to cause excessive inflammation, which is frequently studied as a cause of numerous “diseases of civilization” including cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, even some cancers.
Although researchers argue about the ideal ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids, the general consensus is to get more fatty acids from Omega-3 sources and less from Omega-6 sources.
ALA becomes a significant factor in not only keeping the Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio in check, but also providing a stable source of parent Omega-3 fatty acids for conversion to other Omega-3 fatty acids and as a source of ALA for fetal development.
To see the ratio of ALA compared to DHA, EPA, and AA, we can analyze the levels naturally found in human milk.
Average Values of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Mother’s Milk(17)
(Using 14 European Studies)
Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA 18:3-n3): 0.9% wt/wt (Range: 0.7%-1.3%)
Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA 20:5-n3): 0.2% wt/wt (Range: 0.0%-0.6%)
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA 22:6-n3): 0.3% wt/wt (Range: 0.1%-0.6%)
Linoleic acid (LA 18:2-n6): 11.0% wt/wt (Range: 6.9%-16.4%)
Arachidonic acid (AA 20:4-n6): 0.5% wt/wt (Range: 0.2%-1.2%)
These ratios would point to a required amount three times larger than that of DHA. In our case this would be at least 900mg ALA. Since the Western Diet is unusually low in Omega-3 fatty acids, we can err on the high side for ALA intake without worrying about going over a “maximum safe” level.
This sentiment is echoed in the scientific community. The International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids (ISSFA) and Lipids stated that “most studies showed benefit from an increasing intake of ALA” and recommends a dietary intake of ALA at 0.7% of energy. For a 2,000 calorie diet this would yield 1,550mg ALA (26). Various international recommendations range from 1,350mg per day to 2,200mg per day. Given these numbers, our goal would be to exceed 1,800mg per day of ALA intake during pregnancy.
Common dietary sources high in ALA include: flaxseed (or flaxseed oil), canola oil, soybeans (or soybean oil), tofu, and walnuts (or walnut oil). The chart below shows that most oils are relatively low in ALA (ALA represented by the yellow bars).
Despite being a good source of the Omega-3s DHA and EPA, fish are not a good source of ALA. Salmon contains only 5.9% of it’s Omega-3s as ALA and Alaska Pollock contains only 1.8% of it’s Omega-3s as ALA.(9) Given the limitation of 2 servings of oily fish per week for pregnant women (due to mercury intake), fish would not be an effective dietary source of ALA.
7,036 females in the United States were studied for ALA intake from 2003 to 2008. The average ALA intake was 1,300mg per day, with 36% of women getting less than this amount.(27) Using 1,300mg per day as an average dietary intake and our goal as 1,800mg (or more) of total ALA intake, we should supplement with at least 500mg ALA. More than this amount would likely not be harmful, and may even provide additional health benefits.
ALA Daily Supplementation Level: 500mg (or more) per day
NOTE: Flaxseed Oil has been dropped from our formulation. Flaxseed Oil is a terrific source of alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA), which is great for overall health but not necessary for a healthy pregnancy. There are enough high-volume manufacturers of Flaxseed Oil (softgels and liquid oil) that it’s cheaper for our customers to buy a separate flaxseed oil than have us add it to our existing formulation. We recommend 2 grams of Flaxseed Oil daily as part of a healthy supplementation regimen. Several food products are also high in ALA, including Canola Oil, Soybean Oil, and Whole or Ground Flaxseeds.