Thursday, January 27, 2011

Great study on mum's and fish oils - a piece of the puzzle

Eat more fish !
Every now and then a very well thought out study is undertaken. A excellent study on fish oils has just been published. To looked to determine what is the steady state level of fish oils in mum's blood cells after child birth. What happens in mums is that when breast feeding she pumps her milk full of DHA, cause it is important for babies brain development. Thus the mother can become at risk for PND, and other issues, due to her lower DHA levels. What is really intriguing is that mum's who don't breast feed, still have the DHA transported out of her cells and into her blood before disappearing. So if you think that not breast feeding would reduce PND due to more DHA oils in mum's body you are wrong!

So the question would be - what level of fish oil / DHA does mum need to consume so that her cells still have optimal supplies of DHA. Thus reducing risk of PND, heart disease etc.

Before this question can be answered. The more basic question needs to be answered. What is the optimal fish oil / DHA levels in mum's cells. To find the answer to this the study looked at mum's fish oil / DHA levels in her red blood cells. They found when the DHA levels were 8% of the total fatty acids in the red blood cells that this was a steady state. What this means is that if you had any more fish oils your body wouldn't use them, as you already have enough.

The next question is what fish oil intake creates this 8% level? We don't know. The study was a population study in Ghana were some populations have a very high level of fresh water fish, hence they have an oversupply (if there is such a thing) of fish oils in their diet. Also just at birth mum's had a DHA level of 7.1 - 7.2 %. So this should be the target for mum's who are pregnant.

However now it should be possible to have a blood test and measure the DHA levels in your red blood cells. If you are a mum pre or post birth, or breast feeding your DHA levels should be 8%, if not then you need more fish oil / DHA. Unfortunately I have looked up my (now outdated) medlab handbook of all the blood tests they do. I couldn't find any test for measuring any fatty acids. In North America they can do the test so if you are serious it is highly likely you can get a sample processed.......

I love studies should as this. A conclusion based upon facts and data which should give the ordainary person in time a test to determine if they need more fish oil / DHA in our diet (which at this stage just assume you do if you have a western diet).

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