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Fat in Fish May Fight Postpartum Depression

Eating Fatty Fish May Provide Mental Boost to Pregnant Women By
Jennifer Warner

WebMD Medical News

April 8, 2002 -- Loading up on fatty fish like tuna and salmon while
you're pregnant may help ward off postpartum depression as well as
give your unborn child a mental boost. New research suggests there's
a link between an essential fatty acid known as DHA (docosahexaenoic
acid) found in these fish and mental health.

Postpartum depression affects 15-20% of women who give birth in the
U.S. The problem has recently entered the national spotlight in the
wake of a high-profile murder case involving a woman who claimed she
suffered from the condition.

Previous studies have found that supplementation of DHA in infant
formula can improve mental development, and the FDA is currently
considering allowing formula companies to add it to their products.

But researchers say the public is less aware of DHA's effect on the
mother's mental health. And a number of studies have confirmed this
link between DHA and postpartum depression.

"We believe that the high incidence of postpartum depression in the
U.S. may be triggered by a low dietary intake of DHA," says study
author David Kyle, PhD, U.S. director of the Mother and Child
Foundation, in a news release.

Kyle presented his research today at a national meeting of the
American Chemical Society. His organization conducts research on
nutrition for mothers and how it affects their babies.

He says preliminary studies have shown women with high levels of DHA
in their breast milk have a lower incidence of postpartum depression.
Another found rates of postpartum depression declined as DHA intake

Researchers say high DHA intake among pregnant women can also reduce
pregnancy and birth-related risks like low birth weight, premature
birth, and pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.

Kyle says these findings suggest that women should consume foods rich
in DHA before they become pregnant, during pregnancy, and while
nursing in order to reduce risks and improve the quality of life for
both infant and mother.

Note that a year ago the FDA warned pregnant women to avoid shark,
tile fish, mackerel, and swordfish as they have high levels of
mercury that could be harmful to a developing baby. Several consumer
groups are also concerned about the levels of mercury in other fish,
including tuna.

Medically Reviewed
By Charlotte Grayson, MD
2002 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.




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