A key finding from research undertaken by Dr Dilys Freeman from the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences at the University of Glasgow and funded by Wellbeing of Women, found that mothers provide brain food for their babies in the earliest days of pregnancy.
This brain food is a chemical called docosahexaenoic acid, (DHA) and is a vital building block for fetal brain development and pregnant women increase their concentration of this acid in the earliest days of pregnancy. Insufficient production of this acid may have an adverse impact on early embryo neurodevelopment.
Diets today in many developed countries have low intakes of oily fish that mean many women enter pregnancy with low levels of this essential fatty acid. As the fetus can only acquire this important building block for the development of neural and brain tissue from its mother taking fish oil capsules as a supplement at the time of conception and in early pregnancy has the potential to be as important as folic acid supplementation.
Dr Dilys Freeman said of this remarkable finding, “It has been fascinating to discover just how early mothers begin to provide the essential fatty acid DHA for their fetus. As many women enter pregnancy with low levels of DHA this Wellbeing of Women funded research we believe has implications for pregnancy nutrition advice. We are hoping to extend our research to understand exactly how DHA is transported and transferred to the fetus and how this may be blocked in some conditions of pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia.”
Tina Weaver, Wellbeing of Women CEO said: The first grant we funded led to pregnant women taking folic acid supplements. This key finding from Dr Dilys Freeman’s project has the potential to be equally as important for women and their babies.