Dietary components are essential for the structural and functional development of the brain. Among these, docosahexaenoic acid, 22:6n-3 (DHA), is critically necessary for the structure and development of the growing fetal brain in utero
. DHA is the major n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid in brain gray matter representing about 15% of all fatty acids in the human frontal cortex. DHA affects neurogenesis, neurotransmitter, synaptic plasticity and transmission, and signal transduction in the brain. Data from human and animal studies suggest that adequate levels of DHA in neural membranes are required for maturation of cortical astrocyte, neurovascular coupling, and glucose uptake and metabolism. Besides, some metabolites of DHA protect from oxidative tissue injury and stress in the brain. A low DHA level in the brain results in behavioral changes and is associated with learning difficulties and dementia. In humans, the third trimester-placental supply of maternal DHA to the growing fetus is critically important as the growing brain obligatory requires DHA during this window period. Besides, DHA is also involved in the early placentation process, essential for placental development. This underscores the importance of maternal intake of DHA for the structural and functional development of the brain. This review describes DHA’s multiple roles during gestation, lactation, and the consequences of its lower intake during pregnancy and postnatally on the 2019 brain development and function.
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