Free radicals are like so many things in life (think chocolate, red wine, and stress). In small amounts they’re not so bad for you (and even helpful!), but in excess they spell trouble. That’s why pregnant women will be delighted to know that a brand-new study found taking an omega-3 supplement during pregnancy and while breastfeeding may provide important free radical protection for both moms and babies.*[i]
You know they’re bad for you, but what exactly are free radicals and what do they do? The health writer Marty Zucker describes them as “terrorists inside our bodies.”[ii] That’s pretty accurate, as their mission is to attack and destroy our most important bodily structure: our cells.
It’s key for everyone to make sure free radicals are under control, but especially pregnant women, who are creating new little bundles of cells that are particularly vulnerable. Fortunately, according to a study published in the April issue of Maternal and Child Nutrition, omega-3 supplements may be just the help expecting moms are looking for!*
The study enrolled 110 pregnant women. Half were given a daily fish oil-enriched drink providing about 400 mg EPA/DHA per day, while the other half were given a placebo drink. Researchers measured different markers of free radical damage in the women (at enrollment, delivery, and 2.5 and 4 months after giving birth) and in the newborns (at delivery and 2.5 months after being born).
The study found that omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy and while nursing increased helpful antioxidants (including superoxide dismutase, catalase, vitamin E, and CoQ10) and decreased harmful free radicals (including hydroperoxides) in both moms and their babes.*
You can easily get 400 mg EPA/DHA by taking two fish oil softgels or ½ teaspoon of fish oil liquid. Flax oil is a great alternative for vegetarians. It contains the omega-3 fatty acid ALA, which is partially converted to EPA/DHA in the body. Assuming a typical 30 percent conversion rate, just ½ teaspoon of flax seed oil provides 382 mg EPA/DHA.[iii]
* This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease.
[i] Kajarabille N, et al. Matern Child Nutr. 2016 Apr 13. doi: 10.1111/mcn. 12300. [Epub ahead of print]
[ii] Zucker M. User’s Guide to Nutritional Supplements, Edited by Jack Challem. North Bergen, NJ: Basic Health Publications, 2003.
[iii] Burdge GC, Wootton SA. Br J Nutr. 2002 Oct;88(4):411-20.
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