Aktuel Ernahrungsmed 2009; 34(5): 240-245. DOI: 10.1055/s-0029-1220446

Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the Perinatal Period: Recommendations for Intake

C.  Glaser, B.  Koletzko


Fetal and infant growth and tissue development depend on a balanced nutrient supply. Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA) are essential compounds of structural lipids in brain and retina and are important for pregnancy and infant outcomes. Supported by the European Commission, the Perinatal Lipid Nutrition Project (PeriLip) and The Early Nutrition Programming Project (EARNEST) developed evidence consensus recommendations on dietary fat intake in pregnancy and lactation based on a systematic review of available evidence and a formal consensus process, which were also supported by several international scientific organizations. It is concluded there is no evidence to support changes in the dietary intake of fat (% of energy) and of the relative contribution of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in pregnancy and lactation, as compared to recommended intakes for the general population. However, a regular supply of long-chain omega-fatty acids is recommended in view of a significant risk reduction of early preterm birth as well as support of optimal visual and cognitive development of the fetus and child. An average daily intake of at least 200 mg docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) during pregnancy and lactation should be approached. This recommended intake can be met by consuming one to two portions of oily sea fish per week. For healthy term infants, breastfeeding is the preferred feeding. If exclusive breastfeeding cannot be achieved, an infant formula should be provided with DHA levels between 0.2 and 0.5 weight percent of total fat, and with the minimum amount of arachidonic acid (AA) equivalent to the DHA content. Dietary inadequacies should be screened for during pregnancy, and individual counselling be offered if needed.