Infants and DHA

What DHA Research tells us about Infancy Development

Research conducted in 2005 that involved children in the age bracket of 5-12 who were suffering from developmental coordination issues showed significant development in areas of behavioral, psychological and learning after receiving DHA enriched fish oil. Research results imply that a lack of DHA in the body can contribute to neurological and psychiatric anomalies including ADHD.

In 2003 a study was conducted on children whose mothers were given fish oil during gestation until the first 3 months after giving birth and scored significantly better in mental development measures at 4 years old compared to mothers who were given corn oil supplements.

Over 50 different researches in 2005 were reviewed and provided compelling evidence of the positive effects of DHA in brain development, particularly in areas of cognition and behavioral competence. DHA was found to help in the management of mood and depression as well as lowering risk of heart disease.

Why is DHA a good brain supplement?

Fat is a nutritional component of the brain comprising of up to 60% in structure and is also a formative requirement for the central nervous system. With this information one could infer that a high fat diet is ideal to improve the neurological capacity of the person, and with the typical American diet it’s a wonder why there aren’t a lot of geniuses running around. The problem is not the amount of fat that is included in the diet, but the kind of fat.

A lack of sustained essential fatty acids in the body can result to the production of alternative fatty acids which could end up doing more harm to the body than good. Hydrogenated fats that are used by the cells to produce “replacement fatty acids” can be found in many diets and have a high omega 6 content. High levels of replacement fatty acids have been attributed to specific neurological and psychiatric conditions such as depression and ADHD. Changing your diet to a meal plan that is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids helps the body retain healthy fat as well as lowers the potential for producing harmful fatty acids that could create potentially devastating effects to the brain and central nervous system.

The human eye is another organ that requires the right kind of fatty acid to function properly. The retina, a structure that is made of elevated amounts of DHA needs fatty acids to be constantly replenished and can be done by eating nutritious fats from food. The correlation of better visual acuity to improved brain function is a fact that has been reflected in many studies. You can improve your diet by including more Omega 3 rich foods into the meals and voiding Omega 6 fatty acids. Some examples of food rich in Omega 3 are Salmon and Tuna, Soybeans, Eggs and Canola Oil.

DHA is critical to Brain Development

Fats have a considerable influence on the rate of cognitive development in all stages of life, from infancy to late adulthood. The fact of the matter is there are two general stages where the brain is particularly sensitive to the amount of sustenance it receives, the first 24 months upon birth and the late 60’s and 70’s. A growing and aging brain both require highly nutritious fat.

Accelerated cognitive development is evident in the first twelve months upon birth with the baby’s brain size significantly developing by up to three times its size. There is also evident central nervous system development where the brain utilizes half of the total energy intake from the food consumed. Fat is a basic and essential part of the cell membrane in the brain as well as a structural component of the myelin sheath that surrounds nerves. An ample supply of fat will ensure that brain function and its performance is kept at optimum levels- good fat that is. According to nutritional studies, 50% of all daily nutritional intakes that an infant takes are from the fat consumed. The caloric benefits from breast milk are also roughly at 50% in fat components.

The fat diversity in a particular species mammary secretion is specific to the nutritional needs of the particular specie’s offspring.  Cow’s milk for example will contain high levels of saturated fat and low amounts of DHA which helps calves develop rapidly, where the focus is muscular development. Compared to the developmental requirements of cows, human brains require a lot more nutrition and grow considerably faster than the body. A highly proficient brain is necessary for humans, which is why it is quintessential that human milk is rich in brain building fat and not body-building fat.

DHA is a fundamental building block of the brain, a low level of DHA in the diet could be attributed to the onset of cognitive deficiency.  Research has provided significant evidence to support claims that DHA has a critical role in the neural system and helps the cognitive cycle. Other cultures such as countries in Asia have long known of the cognitive benefits that come with DHA. Japanese consider DHA as an integral health supplement and enrich their food with DHA.  Other research showed:

  • It has been found that babies who received low doses of DHA in their nutrition had slower brain development and lower visual acuity.
  • Mothers who had breastfed with DHA enriched breast meal yielded higher academic performance and improved IQ in their infants compared to formula-fed babies.
  • Countries who have a high Omega 3 Fatty Acid consumption have a lower rate of degenerative disorders in the CNS such as a lower rate of multiple sclerosis occurrence in the population.
  • Trials that tested animals with low DHA diets were found to have developed smaller brains and had impaired nervous system development.
  • Children who suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder have been found to have insufficient levels of DHA in their nutrition.

Our brains have almost completed its development cycle by the time we reach adulthood but it still requires nutrition to complete its functions and function properly. This is a good enough reason to eat nutritious food and maintain a healthy diet. As adolescents we tend to skip on food rich in essential fatty acids and consume food rich in saturated and hydrogenated fats. As a teenager it’s advisable to eat healthy and incorporate more fish than fries in the diet.


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