The roles of DHA in health – Part I


Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in the human brain (although its levels depend on the type and amount of fatty acids in the diet), plays a fundamental role in behavior, cognition and mood, because of its importance for the formation and functioning of neurons and brain circuits. So, DHA is implicated in processes that underlie cognitive development: it may have a role in increasing the speed with which information is acquired and enhancing the efficacy with which such information is retained (information processing).

Fetal development and early infancy (from around 24 weeks of gestation to 2 years of age) are critical periods during which deficiency of DHA may have long-term consequences for later brain function. If sufficient DHA is not available to the organism during the development of the neurons and the retina, the child’s neurological development is affected. Studies with children suggest that supplementation with DHA or increasing its maternal levels (in case of breastfeeding) enhances neuromotor development. Changes in brain concentrations of DHA are associated with changes in cognitive and behavioral performance.

DHA is found in high concentration in the retina (the retina is, functionally, an extension of the brain) and it is required for its proper function. Studies in animals with induced omega-3 deficiencies show deficits in retinal structure, visual acuity development and cognitive performance. Infants seem to require dietary DHA for retinal development and normal visual function. In adults, it has been reported that DHA intake is inversely related to the risk of age-related macular degeneration.

In fact, the important role of DHA continues in the adult brain



Girl reviewing eyesight.

Omega-3, visual acuity and ADHD

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most commonly diagnosed pediatric neurobehavioral disorders, but it is known that sensory impairments in children are [...]