Brain development suffers from lack of fish oil fatty acids, study finds

Brain development suffers from lack of fish oil fatty acids, UCI study finds
The Cohen-Cory study shows for the first time how deficits in certain fatty acids cause molecular changes in the developing brain that result in constrained growth of neurons and the synapses that connect them.

While recent reports question whether fish oil supplements support heart health, UC Irvine scientists have found that the fatty acids they contain are vitally important to the developing brain.

In a study appearing today in The Journal of Neuroscience, UCI neurobiologists report that dietary deficiencies in the type of fatty acids found in fish and other foods can limit during and early in life. The findings suggest that women maintain a rich in these fatty acids for themselves during pregnancy and for their after birth.

Susana Cohen-Cory, professor of & behavior, and colleagues identified for the first time how deficits in what are known as n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids cause molecular changes in the developing brain that result in constrained growth of neurons and the synapses that connect them.

These fatty acids are precursors of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, which plays a key role in the healthy creation of the central nervous system. In their study, which used female frogs and tadpoles, the UCI researchers were able to see how DHA-deficient brain tissue fostered poorly developed neurons and limited numbers of synapses, the vital conduits that allow neurons to communicate with each other.

"Additionally, when we changed the diets of DHA-deficient mothers to include a proper level of this dietary fatty acid, neuronal and synaptic growth flourished and returned to normal in the following generation of tadpoles," Cohen-Cory said.

DHA is essential for the development of a fetus's eyes and brain, especially during the last three months of pregnancy. It makes up 10 to 15 percent of the total lipid amount of the cerebral cortex. DHA is also concentrated in the light-sensitive cells at the back of the eyes, where it accounts for as much as 50 percent of the total lipid amount of each retina.

Dietary DHA is mainly found in animal products: fish, eggs and meat. Oily fish - mackerel, herring, salmon, trout and sardines - are the richest dietary source, containing 10 to 100 times more DHA than nonmarine foods such as nuts, seeds, whole grains and dark green, leafy vegetables.

DHA is also found naturally in breast milk. Possibly because of this, the fatty acid is used as a supplement for premature babies and as an ingredient in baby formula during the first four months of life to promote better mental development.

The UCI team utilized Xenopus laevis (the African clawed frog) as a model for this study because it allowed them to follow the progression and impact of the maternal dietary deficit in the offspring. Because frog embryos develop outside the mother and are translucent, the researchers could see dynamic changes in neurons and their synaptic connections in the intact, live embryos, where development can be easily studied from the time of fertilization to well after functional neural circuits form.

They focused on the visual system because it's an accessible and well-established system known to depend on for proper growth and utility.


Explore further

Pregnant women not getting enough omega-3, critical for infant development

Journal information: Journal of Neuroscience

Citation: Brain development suffers from lack of fish oil fatty acids, study finds (2015, April 15) retrieved 25 May 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-04-brain-lack-fish-oil-fatty.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
1391 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

JVK
Apr 15, 2015
Journal article excerpt: "... supplementation of maternal diets with DHA rich fish oil can reverse deficits in morphology and connectivity of central neurons within the developing tadpole brain therefore emphasizes the significant interactions between fatty acid metabolism and neurotrophic function and further underscores the importance of proper maternal nutrition during gestational age for proper brain development and function among all vertebrate species."

"...pheromones and nutrition could alter levels of maternal hormones, gestational events, and postnatal outcomes via their direct effect on maternal GnRH and the placenta. The outcomes might not always be positive, which means the possible effects should not be ignored. That would be like ignoring the likely effects of docosahexaenoic acid in the maternal and postnatal diet on LH and on neuronal development in the mammalian brain (Lassek & Gaulin, 2011)." http://www.ncbi.n...3960071/

JVK
Apr 15, 2015
"The role of docosahexaenoic and the marine food web as determinants of evolution and hominid brain development: The challenge for human sustainability" http://nah.sagepu...abstract

"A quantum theory for the irreplaceable role of docosahexaenoic acid in neural cell signalling throughout evolution" http://www.ncbi.n...23206328

Excerpt: "Whilst the view that nutritional conditions had a role in directing evolution seems contrary to the gene-centric view of evolution, it is consistent with pure Darwinism."

The bastardization of Darwin's theory by population geneticists has left us with a legacy of their pseudoscientific nonsense. That legacy is manifested in this 2015 report on the importance of DHA, which makes more sense in the context of the Aquatic Ape hypothesis than in the context of neo-Darwinism. https://www.youtu...oM7lGYHw

Apr 15, 2015
Yes...I'd bet fish oil helps frogs

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more