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The importance of DHA during foetal development

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During foetal development, the critical role of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is for the structural and functional integrity of the central nervous system (CNS) and retina. By drawing on the maternal supply of this essential fatty acid during pregnancy, a newborn is able to achieve a brain weight which is at 70% of an adult. The maternal intake of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation is therefore crucial since both DHA and EPA are provided during perinatal development through placental transfer and maternal milk. This not only determines the DHA status of the newborn, but has a significant impact on post-natal development of brain and visual functions.

In this infographic we review some of the key roles of DHA, not just for optimising mental and neuronal development, but also as a nutrient that may improve cognitive performance and behaviour in infancy and childhood.

References

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  3. Salem N, Litman B, Kim HY, et al. Mechanisms of action of docohexaenoic acid in the nervous system. Lipids 2001;66:397-404.
     
  4. Lauritzen L, Hansen HS, Jørgensen MH, et al. The essentiality of long chain n-3 fatty acids in relation to development and function of the brain and retina. Prog Lipid Res 2001;40:1-94.
     
  5. Uauy R, Hoffman DR, Peirano P, et al. Essential fatty acids in visual and brain development. Lipids 2001;36:885-895. [Abstract]
     
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  8. Jensen CL, Voigt RG, Llorente AM, et al. Effects of early maternal docosahexaenoic acid intake on neuropsychological status and visual acuity at five years of age of breast-fed term infants. J Pediatrics 2010. Viewed 28 August 2015, http://www.jpeds.com
     
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  13. Montgomery C, Speake BK, Cameron A, et al. Maternal docosahexaenoic acid supplementation and fetal accretion. Br J Nutr 2003;90(1):135-145. [Abstract]
     
  14. Szajewska H, Horvath A, Koletzko B. Effect of n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation of women with low-risk pregnancies on pregnancy outcomes and growth measures at birth: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83(6):1337-1344. [Full text]
     
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melissalee's picture
Melissa Lee
Melissa is a designer turned nutritionist, who has combined the two modalities to create purposeful designs for various health publications and websites. Having initially studied Multimedia Systems Design, she then went on to complete a BHSc in Nutritional Medicine which led to her involvement in the integrative medicine industry and eventually to FX Medicine.