April 10, 2008
Omega 3 Fatty Acids Boost Fetal Brain Development?

The omega 3 fatty acid is suspected of boosting infant brain development.

Quebec City, April 9, 2008—A study supervised by Université Laval researchers Gina Muckle and Éric Dewailly reveals that omega-3 intake during the last months of pregnancy boosts an infant’s sensory, cognitive, and motor development. The details of this finding are published in a recent edition of the Journal of Pediatrics.

To come to this conclusion, researchers first measured docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) concentration—a type of omega-3 fatty acid involved in the development of neurons and retinas—in the umbilical cord blood of 109 infants. “DHA concentration in the umbilical cord is a good indicator of intra-uterine exposure to omega-3s during the last trimester of pregnancy, a crucial period for the development of retinal photoreceptors and neurons,” explains Dr. Dewailly.

Tests conducted on these infants at 6 and 11 months revealed that their visual acuity as well as their cognitive and motor development were closely linked to DHA concentration in the umbilical cord blood at the time of their birth. However, there was very little relation between test results and DHA concentration in a mother’s milk among infants who were breast-fed. “These results highlight the crucial importance of prenatal exposure to omega-3s in a child’s development,” points out Dr. Muckle.

This is not the first study to make that claim. But a lot of factors influence intellectual development including genetics. It is hard to prove the influence of this one factor. Still, given DHA's role in nerve cell membranes this claim seems highly plausible.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 April 10 11:01 PM  Brain Development

Brock said at April 11, 2008 1:59 PM:

Sorry I don't have a link, but I've seem (somewhere) that it's not the concentration of Omega-3's that matter, but rather the ratio of O-3 to O-6. Our current diet is extremely skewed towards 0-6, whereas prehistorically it was closer to 50/50. The human body needs that 50/50 ratio.

purenoiz said at April 14, 2008 12:34 PM:

Brock you are partially right.

The human brain is a different beast in the fetal stage. Read survival of the fattest by stephen cunane. Baby body fats is a combination of AA (w-6) and DHA (w-3). Given that a childs brain consumes 73% of it's energy, this fatty composition is fuel and raw material respectively for the growing brain. Concentration of DHA does matter since it is the structural fat for the brain.

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