Should Pregnant Vegans Take DHA Supplements?
DHA supplements may be beneficial for vegan mothers and their babies.
DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is an important compound that is essential for brain, eyes, skin and more. Our bodies create this omega-3 fatty acid in small amounts, but not at levels we need to survive, so we usually get our intake of DHA through food. Most people get the fatty acid by eating cold-water fish like salmon, tuna or halibut, but for pregnant vegan women, this dilemma can be troublesome. Clearly, fish is not an option, and virtually no vegan foods offer DHA sources. The answer, it seems, are algae-based DHA supplements.
While studies have shown that vegan diets are perfectly healthy for both mother and baby, there is a marked difference in the amount of DHA stores in a vegan mother’s body versus an omnivore mother’s body. More specifically, vegan mothers do have noticeably lower DHA levels than their meat eating counterparts. This difference is also paralleled with the babies; where DHA levels in babies born from vegans was clearly lower than in the blood of babies from the general population.
That being said, DHA levels in the blood may not be an issue, as it’s DHA levels in the brain that are truly significant. This has yet to be studied, but to be on the safe side, it is definitely recommended that vegan women who are pregnant should take DHA supplements in order to account for the lower amount of DHA they obtain from food.