Weekly Health Tip: How the Fatty Acid DHA Builds a Brain
In the first year of life, a baby’s brain is under heavy construction. It nearly triples in size, from about ¾ of a pound to more than 2 pounds. A key building block in this construction project is DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Our bodies create small amounts of DHA on their own, but we also consume this fatty acid by eating seaweed and many species of oily, cold water fish. Dietary intake of DHA by pregnant women and nursing mothers helps insure that babies get enough of this essential nutrient to build a healthy brain. DHA, found in cell membranes, becomes concentrated in the fetal brain during the last trimester of pregnancy. During those months, an explosion of neuron growth takes place in the brain. DHA also aids in the development of synapses, the connections between neurons. The essential fatty acid is vital to vision development, and is found in large concentrations in the eyes’ photoreceptors. Our need for dietary DHA continues throughout life, as it helps with proper brain functioning, neurogenesis and vision. There is also evidence that DHA helps ward off heart disease. So bring on the salmon!
Learn more about the power of brain-building omega-3 fatty acids:
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