What are LCPs?
Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPs) are the building blocks of the fats (technically called lipids) that help the body function normally1. They are important for both your own health and your baby’s development throughout pregnancy.
Omega 3 and Omega 6 are two families of LCPs that have been named essential fatty acids because the body is unable to make them, and they can only be obtained from the diet1.
“Omega 3 and 6 are important for health but because the body cannot make them, they are known as essential fatty acids – ones you have to include in your diet.”
As types of polyunsaturated fats, Omega 3 and 6 have different properties and different benefits for your baby. Unfortunately, many people aren’t getting enough Omega 3 in their diet2. Making an effort to include good sources of Omega 3 in your pregnancy diet will help to give your baby the best start for a healthy future.
Which fish contains more LCPs per 100g?
Omega 3: Supporting your baby’s heart, brain and vision
You may already know that Omega 3 can help reduce the risk of heart disease3. It also plays an important role in your baby’s rapidly developing brain4, as well as their nervous system4, and eyes4.
Omega 3 is recognised as an important nutrient for your baby’s normal cognitive development, to set the foundations for the way your baby learns, understands and thinks throughout life.
“Omega 3 has many benefits to your baby’s brain development during pregnancy and helps set the foundations for their learning skills throughout life.”
Research has shown that the potential long-term benefits to your baby of Omega 3 during pregnancy include:
- A healthy birth weight4
- Reduced risk of preterm delivery4
- Reduced risk of your baby developing eczema later in life5
- Healthier, stronger bones6,7
- A positive effect on overall development, including verbal, motor and social skills7
Research shows that Omega 3 is especially important during late pregnancy and the first few months after birth4. As well as supporting your baby’s health and development, studies also suggest it may help to reduce your risk of antenatal8 and postnatal depression9. This is possibly due to healthier cell membranes allowing serotonin to flow better between cells, but this area is still being explored and the reasons are not yet fully understood10.
Omega 6: Getting a healthy balance
Omega 6 has also been shown to have a beneficial effect on heart health due to its ability to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood1. An adequate intake during pregnancy helps to build up your baby’s stores, ready for life after birth11.
In a healthy ratio, the two LCPs have been linked to reducing childhood asthma12. However, recent research shows that although, beneficial, high levels of Omega 6 can affect the body’s ability to use Omega 313. Vegetable oils and animal products are a key source of Omega 6, and because they are used in so many foods, we commonly consume more than we realise14.
Because of this, the benefits of Omega 6 have been thrown into question, with nutritionists continuing to study and debate the right quantity needed of this nutrient15.
LCPs and your pregnancy diet
With vegetable oils being a good source of Omega 6, most people are getting plenty of this fatty acid without any effort15.
Most people, however, including mums-to-be, aren’t getting enough Omega 316.
Oily fish are the richest source of Omega 3. During pregnancy it’s recommended that you eat 2 portions per week for a healthy intake. But because these fish can contain potentially high levels of mercury, they are one of the foods to limit during pregnancy , so be careful not to eat more than this4.
Vegetarian sources include walnuts, Omega 3-enriched eggs, and flax seeds.
Try these Omega-3 rich meal and snack ideas:
- Salmon nicoise salad
- Sardines on toast
- Grilled mackerel
- A handful of walnuts
- Omega 3-enriched egg mayonnaise on wholemeal bread