Pregnant and breast-feeding women are being targeted with functional foods as evidence of the link between maternal nutrition and children's long-term development strengthens.
In India, where much of the research has been concentrated, Martek Biosciences, which specialises in omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) extraction from microalgae, has joined forces with nutriceutical giant Glaxosmithkline, to produce Mother's Horlicks, and Bangalore-based British Biologicals to launch Pro-PL powdered drink for pregnant women in chocolate, vanilla and cardamom. Both contain algal DHA, while Pro-PL is fortified with 29 nutrients, including folic acid and iron.
The company confirmed that it is working with other manufacturers on developing mainstream food products for mums-to-be in Europe.
"Pregnant and breastfeeding women are a key market for Martek, as few women get an adequate supply of DHA from their daily diets," said product manager, pregnancy and nursing, Bruce Brown.
Elevated levels of DHA in mothers' blood and milk are believed to accelerate brain and eye development in babies, and influence IQ in later life.