The role of DHA & EPA through the lifecycle: Adulthood & Pregnancy

The role of DHA & EPA through the lifecycle: Adulthood & Pregnancy
Nov 28, 2018

DHA & EPA

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are forms of omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water, fatty fish (like salmon, tuna, herring, shellfish, mackerel, and sardines), seaweed, and fish-oil supplements. Our bodies make small amounts of DHA on their own, but we require additional intake from our diet and supplements to meet our body’s needs.

Both DHA and EPA play vital roles in establishing and maintaining our health. DHA is required in high levels in the brain and retina to provide optimal neuron function and visual acuity throughout all ages of our lives.

Adulthood

While adults are well past the more rapid growth and developmental stages of life, DHA remains crucial for maintaining their health. In addition to maintaining a healthy brain and nervous system, DHA has been linked to promoting heart health and combating the risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies have linked omega-3 fatty acids and DHA to decreasing hypertension and lowering cholesterol, two things that greatly contribute to heart attacks and strokes. Additionally, DHA has been linked to fighting inflammation and prevent type 2 diabetes.[1] Adults should aim to eat at least 3-ounces of fish 2-3 times a week, or 250-500mg/day of a DHA supplement.[2] 

Pregnancy

During pregnancy, DHA intake and supplementation is vital to ensure the healthy growth and development of your baby’s brain and eyes. It is recommended to eat eight to 12 ounces per week of low-mercury, fatty fish (like trout, herring, salmon, halibut) and look for fortified dairy products like milk and plain yogurt. The goal is to take in 200mg/day of DHA.[3] Not all prenatal vitamins contain DHA, so ask your physician if you should be supplementing with DHA on top of your dietary intake.

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About the author:

Brigitte Zeitlin | MPH, RD, CDN

Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian-nutritionist and owner of BZ Nutrition, a private nutrition counseling practice. She has been featured in Us Weekly, Women’s Health, SELF, and Well+Good. Become a client and work with Brigitte by visiting bznutritionny.com.

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