The supply of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6ω–3), important for fetal/infant neurodevelopment, depends on the maternal fatty acid (FA) status, which may be marginal in central Europe. Therefore, we investigated the effect of a daily vitamin/mineral supplement with and without 200 mg DHA from mid-pregnancy through lactation on the DHA concentrations in maternal and infant red blood cell phospholipids (RBC%), and in breast milk FA (%).
At 21 weeks’ gestation, 144 women were enrolled into a randomised, double-blind clinical trial receiving daily: (1) a basic vitamin-mineral supplement (Vit/Min group), (2) Vit/Min plus 4.5 g fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS group), or (3) Vit/Min plus 4.5 g FOS plus 200 mg fish oil-derived DHA (DHA-FOS group). FAs were determined by capillary gas-liquid chromatography.
While maternal RBC-DHA% at enrolment was not different, at 37 weeks gestation, and 3 months after delivery RBC-DHA% were significantly higher in the DHA-FOS group. The breast milk DHA% was twice as high in the DHA-FOS group (0.50%) than in the two others (0.25 %) (p < 0.001), and the ratio ARA/DHA in the DHA-FOS group was 1.0 ± 0.43, in the others 2.1 ± 0.43 (p < 0.001). The RBC-DHA% of the infants in the DHA-FOS group was also significantly higher, and correlated significantly with maternal RBC-DHA% before and 3 months after delivery.
In central Europe, a dose of 200 mg/day DHA from mid-pregnancy through lactation seems appropriate to improve the DHA status of mothers and infants.