The Importance of Antioxidants with Fish Oil Dietary omega-3 fatty acids for women


ALA: Alpha-linolenic acid, plant derived 18-carbon long omega-3 fatty acid. Primarily from flaxseed (linseed), walnut, and hemp oils.

EPA: Eicosapentaenoic acid, animal derived 20-carbon long omega-3 fatty acid. Primarily from cold-water fatty fish.

DHA: Docosahexaenoic acid, 22-carbon long omega-3 fatty acid. Primarily from cold-water fatty fish. There are vegetarian sources (algae) for DHA.

1) Adequate maternal omega-3 fatty acid intake “ensures the optimal cerebral and cognitive development of the infant.”

2) Human milk contains both ALA [flaxseed oil, etc.] and DHA, unlike that of other mammals. [This is one of the reasons that cow’s milk is not a substitute for human milk for infants.]

3) Vegetarian and vegan mother’s milk have altered fatty acid profiles which impair the cerebral and cognitive development of their infants. [Very Important]

4) ALA [flaxseed oil, etc.], DHA and EPA are important for preventing ischemic cardiovascular disease in women of all ages.

5) Omega-3 fatty acids can help to prevent the development of certain cancers, particularly those of the breast and colon, and possibly of the uterus and the skin, and are likely to reduce the risk of postpartum depression, manic-depressive psychosis, dementias (Alzheimer’s disease and others), hypertension, toxemia, diabetes and, to a certain extent, age-related macular degeneration.

6) Omega-3 fatty acids play a positive role in the prevention of menstrual syndrome and ostmenopausal hot flushes.

7) The normal Western diet contains little ALA [flaxseed oil, etc.], providing less than 50% of the RDA.

8) The best sources for EPA and DHA are fish, seafood and “omega-3” eggs.

9) Both the omega-6 fatty acid linoleic (LA, 18:2(n-6)) and the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) [flaxseed oil, etc.], 18:3(n-3)) are “physiologically essential.” [Important, ALA is physiologically essential]

10) The intake of ALA [flaxseed oil, etc.] is far too low.

11)Pregnant women that consume more fish oil improve the pregnancy for both the mother and the baby, reducing prematurity and low birth weight in the infant, and reducing hypertension and pre-eclampsia in the mother.

12)Vegetarians are more prone to premature births and Caesarean sections.

13)Vegetarian mothers are more likely to have premature babies with low birth weight.

14)Daily maternal supplementation of fish oil containing a DHA/EPA mixture is good for fetal development.

15)“Omega-3 fatty acids are most important as structural elements in the developing nervous systems of the fetus and newborn, and this is linked to the mother’s food.”

16)ALA [flaxseed oil, etc.], influences vision, behavior and brain structure and function.

17)“Adding omega-3 fatty acids to baby formula, to make it more like mother’s milk, influences the visual, cerebral and intellectual capacities of newborn babies.”

18)“The fetus uses most of the portion of dietary omega-3 fatty acids supplied to it for its developing brain.” [Very Important]

19)Maternal DHA status decreases during pregnancy.

20)“The cerebral and overall DHA status of breast-fed babies is better than that of infants fed formula lacking DHA.”

21)Human milk contains considerable concentrations of both DHA and ALA [flaxseed oil, etc.].

22)Eating fatty fish, taking fish oil capsules and eating omega-3 eggs increases the DHA in maternal milk.

23)A diet containing flaxseed oil, which has a high ALA content, increases the ALA and EPA in the milk and erythrocytes of lactating women, but not DHA. [Very Important for vegan mothers]

24)“Although the diets of vegans and vegetarians contain reasonable amounts of ALA [flaxseed oil, etc.], it is unlikely that enough is converted to DHA to satisfy the needs of pregnancy and lactation.” [Very Important]

25)Dietary fish, seafood or omega-3 supplements are advisable and prudent for pregnant and lactating women. [Very Important]

26)Omega-3 fatty acids prevent age-related macular degeneration.

27)“There is no doubt that supplements of omega-3 fatty acids, generally taken as fish oil, improve infant visual acuity.” [Important]

28)A lack of omega-3 fatty acids damages hearing and leads to premature aging of the auditory nervous system. “Omega-3 fatty acids are important dietary components for preserving hearing throughout life.”

29)Children given fish oil during the first year of life are less likely to develop type I diabetes, perhaps because of the anti-inflammatory action of very long chain omega-3 fatty acids.

30)Fish consumption reduces the risk of breast cancer.

31)“Excess omega-6 fatty acids seems to increase the risk of breast cancer metastasis, while omega-3 fatty acids have the opposite action.”

32)“There should always be a good intake of antioxidants to restrict the peroxidation of fatty acids, as these peroxide derivatives are genotoxic and cytotoxic.” [Very Important]

33)“Omega-3 fatty acids, if adequately preserved from oxidation,” benefit atherosclerosis, chronic hepatitis, inflammatory bowel diseases, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis. [Important, again: this is why everyone should take antioxidants with each gram of fish oil.]

34)Eating fish and omega-3 fatty acids reduces the risk of suicide attempts, reduces the frequency of bipolar disorder (manic-depressive patients), and reduces the risk of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease.

35)Studies show that ALA [flaxseed oil, etc.] significantly protects against cardiovascular disease.

36)Assuming ALA [flaxseed oil, etc.] intake is sufficient, newborn babies can only in small quantities convert ALA to DHA and, therefore, DHA is considered an essential nutrient for babies. [Important for strict vegetarians.]

37)Both ALA [flaxseed oil, etc.] and DHA are essential nutrients.

38)People who eat no animal lipids are very deficient in DHA. [Important for strict vegetarians.]

39)Omega-3 fatty acids help to prevent menstrual syndromes,  particularly dysmenorrhea and menopausal hot flushes and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

40)“Only seafood provides adequate EPA and DHA.”

41)“There is practically no toxicological risk from eating too much omega-3 fatty acid.” [Important]

42)“Women, therefore, have specific requirements for omega-3 fatty acids that should be recognized and fulfilled, either by the diet or with capsules.”


A central issue from this article is that alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, from fl axseed oil and other sources) is essential for health and must be included in the diet. Many individuals taking fish oil (omega-3 supplements) are unaware that fish oil capsules usually do not contain ALA. Again, this article supports the importance of using antioxidants when consuming omega-3 fatty acids.

Dr. Dan Murphy graduated magna cum laude from Western States Chiropractic College in 1978. He received Diplomat status in Chiropractic Orthopedics in 1986. Since 1982, Dr. Murphy has served part-time as undergraduate faculty at Life Chiropractic College West, currently teaching classes to seniors in the management of spinal disorders. He has taught more than 2000 postgraduate continuing education seminars.

Dr. Murphy is a contributing author to both editions of the book Motor Vehicle Collision Injuries and to the book Pediatric Chiropractic.


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