ULaval.ca – Giving breastfeeding mothers DHA supplements, a type of omega-3 fatty acid, increases the concentration in their milk of this nutrient essential to brain growth and brain development, concludes a study presented recently by Université Laval researcher Dr. Isabelle Marc at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada.

Babies born before the 30th week of gestation are prone to serious dietary deficiencies because their gastrointestinal system is not yet fully formed while nutritional needs are very high at this crucial stage of development. Health problems often associated with preterm birth also increase the risk of malnutrition, including DHA deficiency.

For the purpose of this study, Dr. Marc and her colleagues asked mothers of 12 infants born before the 30th week of gestation to take a daily 1.2 grams of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA from the moment they gave birth. After 7 weeks, results showed that DHA levels in the breast milk of mothers who received supplements were 12 times higher than levels found in the milk of mothers in a control group with no DHA supplementation. In addition, plasma DHA concentrations in mothers and babies in the DHA group were two times higher than in the control group.

“Our results underline the urgent need for recommendations addressing dietary DHA intake during lactation of mothers of very preterm infants, since the human milk DHA content is most probably insufficient, especially in mothers not consuming enough fish during this period,” concludes Dr. Marc, who is also associated with the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Québec Research Center.