Disclaimer: The following article is based on extensive research, but should not be considered medical advice. Always consult with a medical professional to understand the full circumstances related to your own situation.
Most people understand how the omega-3 fatty acids benefit the body in various ways. However, there is still a worldwide scepticism over its sources and the supplements that offers the essential fatty acids. With this scepticism comes the question, will omega-3 supplement like calamari oil safe for pregnant women?
First, let’s examine what’s with the content of calamari oil, its benefits, and its disadvantage (if there are any) and gather the exact answer from the various studies of experts.
Background on Omega-3
The omega-3 fatty acids are considered the essential fatty acids according to the University of Maryland Medical System, although it is essential for the body, the body can’t produce them. Thus, the body may rely mostly on outside sources, in diet the most.
The omega-3 fatty acids taken from both plant and animal sources play a crucial role in brain functioning and in normal growth and development. Its usual sources are sea foods such as salmon, tuna, krill and calamari. From plants, it can be available from algae, Chia seeds and flaxseeds.
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats which puts it in line with the good fats. One more famous benefit of omega-3 in the body is its ability to reduce heart diseases. Most health associations all over the world recommend eating of fish and other omega-3 source at least twice a week. If it’s not possible, supplements from same sources are also recommended.
Omega-3 is in line with the PUFAs or the polyunsaturated fatty acids or the good kind of fats. These kinds of fats helps in body functioning and are recommended for daily consumption.
Several well studied benefits of omega-3 for the body include:
Ability to quell inflammation
The omega-3 fatty acids are equipped with enzymes and anti-inflammatory properties which can help fight chronic inflammation. This stems, one, from the EPA and its ability to fight inflammation and fight coagulation. Chronic inflammation plays a big role in causing diseases and aging. Pro-solution molecules (Lipoxins, Resolvin and Protectins) from the omega-3 helps combat inflammation then resolve them.
Lower risk of heart disease
Studies have found out that omega-3 fatty acids have the capacity to decrease risk of abnormal heartbeats (can lead to sudden death) and can prevent atherosclerotic plaque which may lead to heart attack.
May fight against cancer
The omega-3 fatty acids have the capacity to reduce enzymes which promote cancer growth, increase the rate of cancer cells and suppress the formation of new vessels needed by the cancer cells to grow.
May reduce arthritic problems
Arthritis is an inflammatory disease. Which turn us back to the first benefit we mentioned, the anti-inflammatory effect of omega-3. Omega-3 helps lessen arthritic pain and even swelling.
Can better cognitive development
Omega-3 contains DHA which is a big brain component. Mothers who have ample amount of omega-3 in their diet during conception will help their child grow up to have better brain development and good brain functioning. It is said to increase learning retention and make learning easier.
Improve behaviour function
Most experts today believed that omega-3 might be the answer to children’s behaviour and learning problems. In a study conducted by the researchers from University of Oxford, it has been found that the level of omega-3 DHA in a child’s blood can predict concentration and learning. Higher omega-3 in the blood of the subjects studied was associated with better reading and fewer behaviour problems.
But of course, in the vast array of omega-3 benefits that are subjected to research, the above things are but a few. There are a thousand more on the topic. On the other hand, Omega-3 deficiency may result to various health symptoms. These symptoms are, but not limited to:
Poor sleep quality
Decreased immune functions
Calamari as a Source
Although calamari oil was overshadowed by fish oil in popularity, the squid market and the calamari oil as a source of omega-3 has been gaining traction in the omega-3 market. The calamari or more known as squid has a higher DHA level than EPA. This puts it in the calibre of Tuna oil but is more sustainable.
Calamari oil is taken from the by-product of food that is produced for human consumption. Meaning, the off cuts of squid are the one that provides the oil for supplements. These off cuts are thrown away when left unused. Squid when caught doesn't damage ocean floor and coral reefs which makes its catching environment-friendly. The calamari population too are quite resilient and can survive even the commercial fishing trends of today.
Calamari is rich in DHA, one big plus for brain development. Although the body can convert DHA to EPA, it cannot convert EPA to DHA. Called as stable species, squid may be the answer to the alarming decrease of fish populations that were caught for commercial purposes. Squids reach reproductive maturity fast and have shorter lifespan, making it less exposed to contaminants such as mercury and other pollutants in the sea.
Like the fish source of omega-3, calamari also gets its omega 3 from the algae and phytoplankton it ingests. These algae are the firsthand source of omega-3, this is where most fish and other marine life get their omega-3 components.
Calamari for Pregnant Women
So is calamari oil safe during pregnancy?
Yes, it’s not only safe, rather it is near required.
The American Pregnancy Association suggests that pregnant women need 300 milligrams of DHA every day. In fact, omega 3 from supplements is prescribed to women with history of past miscarriage in a ratio of 1:5 EPA to DHA.
During pregnancy, the babies rely mostly on the mother’s diet and the vitamins taken. Omega-3 has been one of the important building blocks needed by pregnant women and also plays a big role in breastfeeding.
In a study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it is found that DHA improves baby’s brain development which may lead to children who have better verbal intelligence, will have finer motor skills and higher pro-social behaviour than peers. The omega-3 transmitted to the foetus through placenta is crucial to the foetal development.
In another study trial conducted by scientists from France, it is discovered that pigs that are pregnant who ate considerable amount of omega 3 from their diets have triggered their baby’s immune system to produce antibodies that can help ward off allergies. This, although not tested on human yet, has provided insights into the human gut.
In another study of researchers from the University of Adelaide and published in British Medical Journal, it is said that omega-3 can improve the health of children once this has been consumed during a mother's conception. Those mothers who have omega-3 treatment when they are pregnant had children with less atopic eczema and were less sensitive to egg exposure than those mothers who were in the placebo group.
Most of the studies were always made for fish oil, but this time why would you consider calamari oil instead?
The obvious reason, as experts pointed out is, there is an ongoing doubt over fish oil and contamination. Although most processed fish oil supplements are generally well taken care of by its manufacturers in terms of purity, calamari is the safer choice. And although among the supplements, both were virtually mercury less if molecular distillation is to be taken consideration, in real diet consumption, the fish may hold some of this pollutants.
So in summary, why is omega-3 good for pregnant women? Here are the underlying reasons:
Omega-3 helps promote fetus’ healthy brain development.
Omega-3 helps mother’s too, it reduces risk of pregnancy induced hypertension
Lessens chance of acquiring gestational diabetes
Decrease the inflammation that is often associated with pain and discomfort
Helps reduce stress to keep both mother and baby healthy
The FDA recommends a not exceeding of 3000mg of fish oil or calamari oil a day. The American Pregnancy Association on the other hand recommends that lactating and pregnant mothers at least gets to consume 300mg a day DHA.
Most doctors though always advice mothers to not rely solely on supplements containing these essential fatty acids, rather it should go with the proper diet and from mercury-free natural marine source.
Supplements may be easy to take (calamari oil supplement is available in most drug stores), but doctors advise to choose well and avoid cod liver oil, one source of omega-3. Cod liver oil, though a good supplement, contains vitamin A. Vitamin A among pregnant women can be potentially toxic.
featured image: Nina Matthews Photography via flickr
Disclaimer: The above article is based on extensive research, but should not be considered medical advice. Always consult with a medical professional to understand the full circumstances related to your own situation.