Our bodies don’t make it?! Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have neuroprotective and neurotrophic (supporting growth and survival) properties. It is vital for your baby’s neurodevelopment (1), and for boosting mom’s mood (2)—but our bodies don’t make it, so you have to take it. Plus, it is also required for the maintenance of normal brain function in adults.
And it does a lot of work
It makes up over 90% of the omega-3 fatty acids in your brain. Feeding studies have shown that DHA regulates neurogenesis (formation of new brain cells called neurons), neurotrophic factor (regulates growth of neurons), and synaptogenesis (formation of connections between neurons).
Plus, it has many benefits
Because it makes up the cell membrane and affects cell structure in postsynaptic neurons, it plays a role in releasing serotonin in the brain and important functions, such as sleep (3, 4), memory (5), mom’s mood, and child’s behavior (6, 7).
(1) Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and the developing central nervous system (CNS) – Implications for dietary recommendations, Biochimie, Volume 93, Issue 1, January 2011, Pages 7-12.
(3) Hansen AL, Dahl L, Olson G, Thornton D, Graff IE, Frøyland L, Thayer JF, Pallesen S. Fish consumption, sleep, daily functioning, and heart rate variability. J Clin Sleep Med 2014;10(5):567-575.
(4) Cheruku SR, Montgomery-Downs HE, Farkas SL, Thoman EB, Lammi-Keefe CJ. Higher maternal plasma docosahexaenoic acid during pregnancy is associated with more mature neonatal sleep-state patterning [published correction appears in Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Dec;78(6):1227].Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76(3):608-613. doi:10.1093/ajcn/76.3.608
(5) Docosahexaenoic Acid and Adult Memory: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, PLOS 1, 2015; 10(3): e0120391.
(6) The Relationship of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) with Learning and Behavior in Healthy Children: A Review,Nutrients2013,5(7), 2777-2810.
(7) Docosahexaenoic Acid for Reading, Cognition and Behavior in Children Aged 7–9 Years: A Randomized, Controlled Trial (The DOLAB Study), Alexandra J. Richardson, Jennifer R. Burton, Richard P. Sewell, Thees F. Spreckelsen, Paul Montgomery, PLOS1, September 6, 2012.