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March 19, 2012

Q&A: How much choline and omega-3 fats do you need?

Here are two questions about choline and omega-3 fats from a reader:

Q. What are the current recommendations for choline during pregnancy? I’ve noticed there are some vitamins with choline now but I eat 7 eggs per week (not pregnant yet).

A. Choline is essential for normal functioning of all cells, especially those in the brain, liver, and the central nervous system. Choline works together with folic acid to promote proper nervous system (including the brain) during pregnancy, and preliminary evidence suggests that choline curbs the risk of neural tube defects, including spina bifida, early in pregnancy. Animal studies suggest choline is crucial for the development of the brain’s memory center.

Before pregnancy, you need 425 milligrams choline every day. During pregnancy, choline needs are 450 milligrams daily. If you breastfeed, get 550 milligrams every day. Don’t rely on supplements or prenatal pills. Most supply little or no choline, or contain a form that the body cannot readily use.

Many women begin pregnancy with a choline-deficient diet. Choline content is highest in animal foods, so women who avoid or limit eggs, meat, poultry, and seafood may be low in choline intake.

Here are some common foods with choline:

Egg*, 1 large, cooked any way: 125 milligrams
Cod, Atlantic, 3 ounces, cooked: 84 milligrams
Ground beef, 3 ounces, cooked: 83 milligrams
Pork tenderloin, 3 ounces, cooked: 76 milligrams
Salmon, 3 ounces, cooked: 65 milligrams
Chicken, 3 ounces, cooked: 65 milligrams
Broccoli or cauliflower, 1 1/4 cups cooked: 40 milligrams
Wheat germ, 2 tablespoons: 21 milligrams

(Fortified eggs, such as Eggland’s Best, also supply the omega-3 fat DHA: see below.)

Q. Also I am wondering about omega-3 supplements. If I eat 2 fish meals a week (1 with light tuna, 1 with wild salmon), is there any benefit for taking a DHA supplement? Is there any harm?

A. Omega-3 fats are healthy for mom, so it’s a good idea to follow the American Heart Association’s advice to eat two fish meals weekly before and during pregnancy. Docosohexaenoic acid (DHA) is one of the omega-3 fats most important to brain development during pregnancy and the first two years of life. DHA is the dominant fat in the brain. Research shows DHA helps to build your baby’s brain, and promotes peak vision, as DHA is part of the retina, located in the back of the eye.

Like choline, most women don’t get enough DHA. DHA is found in seafood and in fortified foods. Pregnant women need 200 to 300 milligrams DHA every day. If you don’t eat enough fish or avoid it, rely on fortified foods and dietary supplements to get the DHA you need.

Here are some DHA sources to help you get an average of 200 to 300 milligrams of DHA daily:

Salmon, Atlantic, farmed, 3 ounces, raw: 1,238 milligrams
Expecta Lipil, 1 pill: 200 milligrams
Tuna*, light, canned, drained, 3 ounces: 190 milligrams
Eggland’s Best, 1 large, cooked any way: 50 milligrams
Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese, 1 ounce: 32 milligrams
Horizon Organic Milk Plus DHA Omega-3, 8 ounces: 32 milligrams

* Certain fish harbor high mercury levels. The Food and Drug Administration says it’s OK to eat light tuna but to limit white tuna to six ounces a week. White tuna is from a larger tuna species that may have more mercury.

February 21, 2012

Is Sitting the New Smoking?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Elizabeth Ward @ 8:40 am

Pregnant or not, regular exercise is crucial for good health. Exercise is good, but moving more matters, as being sedentary is considered a risk factor for chronic conditions, including cancer and heart disease.

Here’s the latest on how important it is to move around throughout the day in addition to getting a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week - that’s at least 30 minutes on most days.

February 17, 2012

Don’t Worry Mom: No Arsenic in Baby Formula

Filed under: General Information — Tags: , , — Elizabeth Ward @ 1:31 pm

A new study from Darmouth College has found arsenic in products that contain organic brown rice syrup, including cereal bars, energy shots, and toddler formulas, but NOT infant formula.

Unfortunately, many news stories have wrongly reported that infant formula contains high levels of arsenic, which may hamper the development of a child’s brain and nervous function. Erroneous reports have lumped all the formulas tested into the infant formula category when, in fact, toddler formulas are meant for children over the age of 12 months. Infants are children who are 12 months or younger.

Infant formula ingredients are tightly controlled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Organic brown rice syrup is not authorized for use in infant formula, according to the FDA.

Mom, there is no need to worry about infant formula. In fact, a 2011 study of arsenic in powdered infant formula found that the maximum levels are at least six times lower than the maximums for drinking water established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

So what did the Dartmouth study reveal? High levels of arsenic in two TODDLER formulas that had contained organic brown rice syrup, the source of arsenic in the cereal bars and energy shots.

Baby’s Only Organic Dairy Toddler Formula and Baby’s Only Organic Soy Toddler Formula, made by the Nature’s One company, contained arsenic levels that were far above the limits set by the EPA for drinking water.

Organic brown rice syrup is used as a sweetener, often in place of high fructose corn syrup. Organic brown rice syrup supplies concentrated levels of arsenic, which is found in water, air, food, and soil as a naturally occurring substance or due to contamination from human activity. You cannot completely avoid arsenic.

Why organic brown rice syrup is allowed as an ingredient in toddler formulas, and in other foods, is beyond me. But that’s another matter.

Bottom line: Don’t worry about infant formula. It’s safe to feed to your baby.

By the way, here’s one story that accurately reported what the Dartmouth study found. Kudos, WebMD!

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