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Nutrients. 2016 Jan 4;8(1). pii: E6. doi: 10.3390/nu8010006.

DHA Effects in Brain Development and Function.

Author information

1
Department of Nutrition Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen, Rolighedsvej 26, 1958 Frederiksberg C, Denmark. ll@nexs.ku.dk.
2
Psychiatric Clinic, Department of Neurosciences and Mental Health, Fondazione IRCCS Ospedale Cà Granda-Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, University of Milan, 20121 Milan, Italy. paolo.brambilla1@unimi.it.
3
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, University of Texas at Houston, 2800 South Macgregor Way, Houston, TX 77021, USA. paolo.brambilla1@unimi.it.
4
Pediatric Clinic, Fondazione IRCCS Ospedale Cà Granda-Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Department of Clinical Sciences and Community Health, University of Milan, 20121 Milan, Italy. alessandra.mazzocchi1@gmail.com.
5
Department of Nutrition Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen, Rolighedsvej 26, 1958 Frederiksberg C, Denmark. laurinebs@gmail.com.
6
Psychiatric Clinic, Department of Neurosciences and Mental Health, Fondazione IRCCS Ospedale Cà Granda-Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, University of Milan, 20121 Milan, Italy. valentina.ciappolino@libero.it.
7
Pediatric Clinic, Fondazione IRCCS Ospedale Cà Granda-Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Department of Clinical Sciences and Community Health, University of Milan, 20121 Milan, Italy. carlo.agostoni@unimi.it.

Abstract

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a structural constituent of membranes specifically in the central nervous system. Its accumulation in the fetal brain takes place mainly during the last trimester of pregnancy and continues at very high rates up to the end of the second year of life. Since the endogenous formation of DHA seems to be relatively low, DHA intake may contribute to optimal conditions for brain development. We performed a narrative review on research on the associations between DHA levels and brain development and function throughout the lifespan. Data from cell and animal studies justify the indication of DHA in relation to brain function for neuronal cell growth and differentiation as well as in relation to neuronal signaling. Most data from human studies concern the contribution of DHA to optimal visual acuity development. Accumulating data indicate that DHA may have effects on the brain in infancy, and recent studies indicate that the effect of DHA may depend on gender and genotype of genes involved in the endogenous synthesis of DHA. While DHA levels may affect early development, potential effects are also increasingly recognized during childhood and adult life, suggesting a role of DHA in cognitive decline and in relation to major psychiatric disorders.

KEYWORDS:

brain development; desaturases; docosahexaenoic acid; psychiatric disorders

PMID:
26742060
PMCID:
PMC4728620
DOI:
10.3390/nu8010006
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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