Dietary recommendations are as for the general population until research proves otherwise. There are no specific dietary guidelines for the woman pregnant with a Down's syndrome child or for the pregnant Down's syndrome woman. There are indications that antioxidant and essential fatty acid intake may be particularly important, and folic acid supplements beneficial, but dietary advice is currently the same as for other pregnant women.
The situation is similar for infant feeding. Brain lipids in the human infant are known to change with changing intakes of fatty acids. The needs of a newborn with Down's syndrome for the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids docosahexenoic acid and arachidonic acid have not been determined. Since breast milk contains the preformed dietary very long-chain fatty acids that seem to be essential for the development of the brain and the retina, it seems prudent to encourage breastfeeding.
The antioxidant defence system has a particularly important role in Down's syndrome, and parents and caregivers can be advised on providing a diet rich in antioxidants. Dietary intakes need to be considered for the sulfur amino acids (which are needed for glutathione synthesis); fat-soluble vitamins A, C, and E; water-soluble vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid; and the minerals selenium and zinc. In latitudes where no vitamin D is synthesized in the winter months, it is particularly important to ensure exposure to sunlight during summer months to maintain adequate stores of the vitamin throughout the year because studies indicate an increase in the incidence of osteoporosis in Down's syndrome.
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