Is too much DHA harmful during pregnancy?
The 1999 workshop held at the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland resulted in the experts gathered there to recommend a minimal intake of DHA omega-3 fatty acid at the level of 300 mg/day during pregnancy to support optimal delivery of DHA and its provision for brain development and visual acuity for the baby. If supplementation is the option chosen to meet this intake, 3 capsules a day of a capsule with 100-200 mg DHA per capsule or 1 capsule per day if the capsule provided 300 mg of DHA per capsule would meet this target. The background intake in a typical average North American diet during pregnancy is 80 mg DHA per day based on a published paper from our research group in the Journal of Nutrition in 2005 (Denomme et al. 135: 206-211). DHA intakes during pregnancy for women in Japan are generally well above 300 mg per day and oftentimes approach 1000 mg per day with no evidence for any harmful effects to the baby. DHA intakes are advised before and throughout pregnancy although the last trimester is considered to be the most critical period for DHA availability during pregnancy for the baby in the womb. For women who plan to breast feed, a continued intake of 300 mg DHA per day can be expected to provide levels of DHA in the breast milk of approximately 0.35% of total milk fat. This particular level in breast milk corresponds to the level of infant formula containing DHA wherein a better performance on the mental development index has been observed when compared to infants given formula lacking DHA.