While the idea of taking cod liver oil supplements is not one’s idea of a good time, we all know that the things that are good for us rarely taste nice, which is why a quarter of supplement users take a variation of fish oil, such as cod or krill, to better their health. At Fertility Help Hub, we want to know why DHA, an essential fatty acid found in omega 3, is so special and how does it help with fertility?
FutureYou Cambridge shares their knowledge of DHA, a component of omega 3, and its benefits for fertility and embryo health.
By Katherine Compton
What is omega 3 and does it help with fertility?
Omega 3 is the name for a group of essential fatty acids that the body cannot produce enough of alone, and so they must be sourced through supplementation or natural foods. Omega 3 helps you to maintain your brain and eye health, as well as the cardiovascular and nervous systems, and cognitive function.
There are three primary variants of omega 3 that are particularly helpful, which are:
- eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- alphalinolenic acid (ALA)
All three play a key role in structuring the cell membranes. Why is this important? Membranes hold the cells together and let helpful molecules pass into the cell while keeping harmful ones out. They are a source of energy and help to maintain the cardiovascular, pulmonary, immune and endocrine systems.
EPA and DHA are both produced by algae (a vegan friendly way of consuming DHA if your diet requires it) but these algae are typically sourced in the marine animals that consume them higher up the food chain, including krill and cod.
ALA is plant based and is found naturally in plant food sources such as nuts and seeds like walnuts and chia.
How is DHA good for fertility?
Brain health — DHA is important for contributing to the maintenance of healthy brain function. It can also improve memory retention and cognitive function. Some studies have also suggested that DHA can be used in medications for the treatment of neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s and dementia/Alzheimer’s, however more studies are needed to confirm this. Taking DHA earlier in life can help to maintain healthy brain development. By the age of three, a child’s brain has grown to 85% of its potential size, which is why taking DHA early is so important to maintaining brain health.
Foetal development — this includes the development of cell membranes, the brain and the retinae in the womb. Taking DHA through pregnancy has been associated with better brain and eye development and normal immune function after birth. DHA is also associated with better birth outcomes, helping mothers to carry to term.
Cell development — DHA is a vital component of every cell in the body. It is used within the cell membrane to retain helpful molecules while expelling unhelpful ones and preventing them from entering the cell membrane.
Visual development — DHA is great for maintaining eye strength. One study found that when babies were fed with a formula supplemented with DHA, their eyes showed more visual activity and they had lower blood pressure, meaning that DHA could prevent issues like heart disease in the future.
Maintaining a healthy birth weight — DHA contributes to the foetus developing a healthy birth weight. This is important, as a low birth weight can be associated with complications with the baby’s breathing, digestion and eyesight.
So, DHA is an essential fatty acid for fertility, pregnancy, for foetal, infant and child development.
How to check for omega 3 deficiency?
As the body cannot produce adequate amounts of omega 3 on its own, it is usual to have a deficiency in it. Likewise, due to modern diet and agricultural techniques in cultivating crops, a lot of the vital nutrients we need from food are destroyed. Modern foods are no longer as rich in omega 3 but are so rich in omega 6 that omega 6 can begin to have negative effects on our health, increasing the risk of obesity. It is also easy to become deficient in omega 3 on a vegan diet as the vegan friendly ALA is not easily converted into DHA and EPA.
There are some signs of being deficient in fatty acids that you may display, such as skin conditions like rough or dry sin, eczema or dermatitis (although there are other causes of these conditions too). Unfortunately, mental health conditions such as depression can also be caused by deficiencies in vital fatty acids.
How to up your intake of DHA for your fertility?
Omega 3 (containing DHA) is obtainable through diet, so a good place to start is to find food sources with healthy amounts of it.
A primary source of omega-3 is oily fish, including:
The NHS recommend that we consume 1 portion of oily fish and one portion of non-oily fish a week to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Non-oily fish would include:
- monk fish
- Dover sole
- sea bass
- John Dory
Some fortified foods, such as milk, eggs and butter also contain omega 3.
For anyone who is on a vegan or vegetarian diet, you may want to incorporate ALA into your diet by consuming foods such as:
- chia seeds
- flax seeds
If you would prefer to consume a guaranteed, correct dosage of omega 3 for a sense of security around your fertility, you could find fish oil supplements as an alternative. Most omega 3 supplements will contain fish oils such as cod liver oil or krill oil (krill oil also contains choline which is great for supporting fertility) and therefore will not be suitable for a vegan diet.
DHA supplements by FutureYou Cambridge
FutureYou Cambridge ensure you are getting just the right amount of what you need, without overdoing it, by giving you exact and recommended quantities. They have developed two formulae of vital omega 3 that contain two types of fish oil that can be good for fertility:
There you have it, DHA (which is found in omega 3) does help with fertility. Sourcing the right amount of omega 3, especially when pregnant, can be tough but hopefully this article has given you some insight into how you can try to find enough through diet and supplementation. It may be worth taking supplements for DHA as early as the TTC stage, as an early deficiency of DHA may be a contributor to neurological disorders, behavioural problems and a lack of visual development in children.
To snag yourself 20% off all FutureYou Cambridge supplements, use code FHH20 at checkout.
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