MadSci Network: Development

Re: How does DHA help a fetus' brain development?

Date: Wed Sep 5 19:20:12 2001
Posted By: Sanjida Rangwala, Graduate Student, Washington University
Area of science: Development
ID: 987223095.Dv


Sorry for the delay, but we haven't been able to find an expert to answer your 
question. Although brain development is not my field of study, I did a search on 
the WWW and came up with the following information:

Source 1:
DHA - Docosahexaenoic acid - is a long chain, polyunsaturated fatty acid, and 
is the primary component of brain tissue, especially brain cell membranes. It is 
required for optimal transmission of nerve cell signals. I got this from an 
advertisement for a DHA supplement, so I don't know how accurate it is.

Source 2:
A slightly more trustworthy reference,  The Good Drug Guide  claims 
that lack of DHA can cause learning disorders, and many psychiatric and 
non-psychiatric disorders.

Source 3:
 This reference  
explains the importance of DHA in fetal brain development and even has actual 
journal article references. 

Here are some recent journal article references I found about DHA and its 
pontetial effect on fetal health:

Heird WC. The role of polyunsaturated fatty acids in term and preterm infants 
and breastfeeding mothers. Pediatr Clin North Am 2001 Feb;48(1):173-188.

Innis SM. The role of dietary n-6 and n-3 fatty acids in the developing 
brain. Dev Neurosci 2000 Sep;22(5-6):474-480.

Youdim KA, Martin A, Joseph JA. Essential fatty acids and the brain: possible 
health implications. Int J Dev Neurosci 2000 Jul;18(4-5):383-399.

The importance of DHA in brain development still seems to be under debate in the 
scientific community, but there seems to be correlative evidence by the 
advertisers of health foods that it is good for you.

Hope this is helpful,


N.B. - DHA is synthesized by normal neural cells in large quantities in order to 
support the needs of the nervous tissues.  Here are some papers on DHA 
synthesis and regulation:

"Docosahexaenoic Acids/isolation and purification"[MESH] searched on PubMed

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