DHA during gestation and infancy

 
 
 

Our cognitive ability (attention, memory, perception, language, problem solving, comprehension, reasoning, calculation, and reading), as humans, is the most advanced in the animal kingdom. It is believed that this is due to the characteristics of our cerebral cortex, the outer layer of the brain. The brain is especially rich in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, and DHA is the predominant one, since it makes up over 90% of them in the brain. DHA is crucial for neurological functions from gestation through adulthood, but the human body cannot synthesize it efficiently; then, to obtain it from external sources is required for reaching and maintaining optimal brain DHA levels. We can obtain it from microalgae, fatty fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies and herring), or from nutritional supplements (fish oil).

DHA intake is especially important during pregnancy and infancy for the development of the brain and cognitive function of the child. DHA is necessary for the growth and maturation of an infant’s brain and retina. During development, it is obtained through the placenta and from mother’s milk during infancy; therefore, the adequate supply of DHA to the developing brain is directly dependent on the mother’s diet: pregnant and nursing women should consume at least 200 mg of DHA daily. This supply is very important to the cognitive development of the baby and may also extend the length of gestation. High DHA levels in breast milk have been associated with better ability to adjust to changes in surrounding, better mental development, improved hand-eye coordination, better attention and memory performance later in life.

Supplements containing DHA have been shown to be safe and well tolerated.

 

Bibliography

Weiser MJ, Butt CM, Mohajeri MH. Docosahexaenoic Acid and Cognition throughout the Lifespan. Nutrients. 2016 Feb 17;8(2). pii: E99. doi: 10.3390/nu8020099.

 
 

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