Importance of DHA (n-3 Fatty Acid) for Brain Development in Infants

July 4 2010No Commented

Categorized Under: Natural health information, Natural health supplements, Pregnancy

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the most abundant (omega – 3) fatty acid in the human

omega 3 fishoil image

omega 3 fishoil

brain, and its levels in brain membrane lipids are altered by the type and amount of fatty acids in the diet, increasing with development and decreasing with aging

Mammals utilise DHA either as DHA itself or the precursor α-Linolenic acid (ALA) and intermediates between ALA and DHA, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

DHA and EPA are absent from all vegetable fats and oils, including nuts, grains, and seeds and are also very low in ruminant fats, including milk and dairy products. The richest dietary sources are fish, sea foods and poultry, where as eggs provide lower sources of EPA and DHA.

The major dietary sources of ALA are soybean and canola oils; flax seed oils and some nuts are also high in ALA, however ALA conversion to DHA is low in humans, with, 1% dietary ALA converted to DHA.

Increased dietary intakes of ALA do not increase DHA in blood lipids of either pregnant women or their newborn infants.

Dietary DHA, however, is well absorbed and readily incorporated into plasma and blood cells lipids in human diets. DHA is readily incorporated into lipids of the developing brain, both before and after birth. DHA deprivation may effect brain development at multiple levels, from protection against oxidative stress, and altered neurotransmission function.

It is well known that infants that are supplemented with DHA shows 15% higher total amounts of DHA in the brain cortex than infants that are not supplemented. As well as this, chronic dietary restrictions of Omega-3 fatty acid can increase brain levels of Omega-6 fatty acids, leading to a decrease in behavioral learning.

DHA supplementation for infants plays an important role and is associated with later decreased anxiety and fear memory, has important free radical scavenging properties and protects against oxidative damage of lipids and proteins in developing adult brains, with a decrease of neuron loss and cognitive and motor functions.

Other recent studies have shown the DHA promoted cell cycle exit in retinal neuroprogenitor cells (prevention of retinal genetic disorders) in culture and promotes differentiation of neural stem cells into neurons by promoting cell-cycle exit and suppressing cell death.

The events in which DHA fulfils its essential roles, including neurotransmission and protection from oxidative stress are relevant throughout ones life and for maximizing cognitive potential during brain development and minimising its loss with aging.

At Ideal Health we recommend that all pregnant and lactating women supplement with Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). The product we recommend to ensure your baby has a rich source of EFAs is Efanatal.

This product is rich in a combination of Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCP’s), (DHA, GLA & AA) which are vital in the development of the baby’s eye & brain function. LCP’s are important before, during & after pregnancy & while breastfeeding.

Taken before, during and after pregnancy (while breast feeding) to supply you and your baby with LCP’s, to help specifically with better eye and brain function.

We also stock the new addition to the Efamol range Efamega, an essential fatty acid product with a huge 375mg of DHA per capsule.

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