Omega 3 for a Healthy Brain
Courtesy of WIN, Ltd
As much as 20% of the fat in the brain is DHA DHA is present in relatively large amounts in brain tissue, significantly more than in other tissues and organs.
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Omega 3 in Children
The brain of a newborn baby integrates DHA to ensure normal development and function. A fetus requires large amounts of DHA during the last three months of pregnancy. Since this is obtained through the placenta, the mother's diet has to be rich in DHA through seafood or omega-3 supplements.
Babies are not able to metabolize DHA from other omega-3 fatty acids the way normal adults are able to do, to a small degree. Mother's milk contains omega-3 fatty acids, both EPA and DHA. The relative percentages will be high if the mother has a sufficient dietary intake of fish. However, many mothers do not consume enough omega-3 and others do not choose to breast feed their babies. It is important to know that most infant formulas do not contain long-chained omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA, which may lead to unsatisfactory saturation of this essential fatty acid in the child’s brain. Children given infant formulas containing omega-3 fatty acids usually develop visual acuity and intellectual functions better than those given standard formulas.
Omega-3s and mental disorders
Mental depression is very common, affecting 8-10% of the population at any time. Statistics show that the prevalence of major depression has increased and the age of onset has decreased in every decade during the 21st century in the Western World. Anti-depressive medication is on the top list of social expenditure for drugs in many countries.
A population study of 3,204 adults in Finland revealed that those with frequent intake of fish were less susceptible to having depressive symptoms compared to the group of infrequent fish consumers. In Iceland people usually don’t experience winter depressions, which is very frequent in Canada. Living at the same latitude, the diets of these two populations are very different with the Icelanders eating fish several times per week.
Along the same line, a population study from the US examining the prevalence of depression after giving birth. It demonstrated that low seafood consumption increased the risk of experiencing depression. In fact, patients with major depression usually have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in blood analysis.
Two controlled studies in patients with major depressive disorders have shown positive effects in combination with anti-depressive medication. Studies are presently ongoing, to demonstrate whether omega-3 fatty acids can be used for self-medication to prevent or treat mild depressive disorders.
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