21) Essential Fatty Acids, DHA and Human Brain

Meharban Singh; Indian Journal of Pediatrics, Volume 72—March, 2005

Most of the brain growth is completed by 5-6 years of age. At birth brain weight is 70% of an adult, 15% brain growth occurs during infancy and remaining brain growth is completed during preschool years.

During the third trimester of pregnancy, there is an avid accretion of DHA in the liver, brain, and retina of the fetus at a rate of 4.13g of EFA per week i.e. 0.59 g/day. Pregnancy leads to a progressive depletion of maternal plasma DHA, presumably due to the increased supply of this critical nutrient to the developing fetal nervous system.

After delivery maternal stores are replaced slowly or incompletely over a period of 5-6 months. There is evidence to suggest that depletion of maternal DHA reserves during pregnancy is an important correlate of postpartum depression.DHA is credited to reduce the levels of thromboxane (TXA2) and increase prostacyclin (PGI2) level leading to enhanced uteroplacental perfusion and oxygen delivery, vasodilatation and thinning of blood.

There is reduced risk of development of toxemia of pregnancy in mothers who received supplements of DHA. The follow-up studies have shown that infants born to mothers whose diet was supplemented with DHA, had higher mental processing scores and high degree of stereopsis and stereo acuity at 4 years of age.