It’s not news that infant formula has been in the media lately because mainlanders have literally scoured the store shelves in Hong Kong to load luggage-full supplies back into China. The situation has gotten so bad that now there is a fine and possible jail time if a traveller is caught with over the granted limit leaving Hong Kong. I bring this up because many infant formulas now contain DHA and I recently was invited to attend a press release event at The Peninsula Hotel on April 23rd to witness a presentation of an important piece of clinical study. The presentation was sponsored by DSM, a large corporate company that produces vitamin and mineral supplements.
Do people even know what DHA is when they purchase jars after jars of these supplements? I know there is so much information in the media and people, nowadays, are very smart about their nutrition and diet but, many people who take these supplements do not even know that Omega -3 is a fat. Well, it is, and it is a good type of fat, but everything taken in moderation is a wise move and yet if you happen to overdose on Omega 3 fatty acids, the American Cancer Society states that one may experience difficulty forming blood clots when there are bodily injuries, as the platelets may be affected by the high levels of Omega-3 in the blood. Also taking Omega-3 supplements may prolong bleeding and have interactions with medications.
DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), like EPA, is an infamous Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (n-3 PUFA) that has a critical role in the growth and development of the nervous system of infants and children. According to The University of Maryland in the US, DHA is found in seaweed and cold water fatty fish like salmon. DHA may have an affect in decreasing symptoms of ADHD, since it is involved in proper brain development. People with high triglycerides can take DHA to decrease their triglyceride levels and therefore lower their chances of cardiovascular disease. Also DHA is associated with lowering inflammation and decreasing joint paint for those with arthritis and pain.
Dr. Susan E Carlson, Ph.D was presenting on her latest DHA supplementation research at the legendary Peninsula Hotel last week, titled “Maternal Nutrition and Beyond”. Since no EPA was used, DHA ultimately was placed on the pedestal. DHA is transferred from the mother to the fetus during pregnancy is also absorbed by the baby during breast feeding via the mother’s milk. With mothers taking 600mg of perinatal supplementation a day, there is evidence of increased DHA in the blood of the baby and the blood of the mother compared to the placebo group. Her results also showed an increase in infant birth weights, head circumference, and birth length. For the mother, the days in the hospital post giving birth have decreased and the percentage of preterm birth has significantly decreased. Dr. Carlson even quoted that approximately $9 Billion USD a year, which equates to about $69 Billion HKD can be saved if every pregnant woman in America took 600mg of DHA a day per annum. Pregnant women only need as little as 200mg of DHA a day to provide adequate nutrition for daily functions but with many cases of low birth weight infants and preterm births, increasing the intake to 600mg, had not been shown to have any adverse effects.
Either way, DHA should be taken in moderation and one should always consult your doctor or Registered Dietitian before you start any new diet or supplementation regimen. I believe in getting your DHA from food sources but, many fish contain mercury and pose an adverse health risk to humans.
Fish sources of DHA include tuna (bluefin tuna has more DHA than other types of tuna), sardines, shellfish, and herring. Although some of these fish contain mercury, the Food and Drug Administration has stated that eating some fish each week have no risk to healthy people and provide many health benefits. Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should avoid fishes with high mercury levels such as, king mackerel, shark, swordfish, and tilefish and also limit consumption of white albacore tuna to under 6 oz weekly. A mother who eats a healthy diet produces milk that contains significant amounts of DHA and extra supplementation is not necessary.
I did take advantage of this press release and got to taste a selection of healthy brunch-themed Hors D’oeuvres, which I thought to be very creative. I did not expect anything less from the chefs at The Peninsula Hotel.