Omega-3’s, Seal Oil and Nursing Mothers

It is interesting that the Chinese consider a child one year old when born. It is in fact usually nine months old, and for that time, shares the mother’s long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids. Recently it has been realised that the total supply of one of these Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA, cannot be made by the mother fast enough to help fully develop the infant brain in the last few moths of pregnancy.

Numerous studies have now explored the possible lesser abilities in newborns that can result from a deficiency in DHA. Some reports suggest that DHA-related developmental problems can be followed even in older children. As a result, nutritionists have been examining proposals for enriching infant formulas with fish oils known to contain DHA. The model for these formulas is obviously mother’s milk, and comparisons show that fish oils are not the complete answer to a supplemental supply of long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids.

The two fatty acids of this type common in fish oils are EPA and DHA which start off in roughly equal amounts. All of the polyunsaturated fatty acids become less, showing that the mother is having to draw on her own body reserves. However, the proportions of EPA and DHA in mothers milk changes rapidly over the first few weeks of nursing. The EPA also drops to about one third of the DHA over the first few weeks of nursing. What is usually ignored is the presence of the third long-chain Omega-3 fatty acid, DPA. In fish oils DPA can be as little as a tenth of the DHA. In seal oil it can be half or more of the percentage of DHA, and thus fits almost exactly the proportion in mother’s milk.