Why fish intake by pregnant women improves the growth of a child's brain

January 14, 2016
Dietary lipid contains fatty acids such as omega-6 and omega-3, which are essential nutrients for many animals and humans. We found from an animal study the underlying mechanism of how an imbalance of omega-6 and omega-3 affects brain development and causes anxiety in the offspring. This may imply that a balanced intake of lipids (such as the regular intake of fish) during pregnancy is good for the healthy development of the brain of the unborn child. Credit: Noriko Osumi

Researchers at Tohoku University's School of Medicine have found an explanation for the correlation between eating fish during pregnancy, and the health of the baby's brain.

Dietary lipid contains fatty acids such as omega-6 and omega-3, which are essential nutrients for many animals and humans. The research group, led by Professor Noriko Osumi, found that a balanced intake of lipids by pregnant women is necessary for the normal brain formation of the unborn child.

In an animal study, the researchers noticed that when female mice were fed an omega-6-rich/omega-3-poor diet, their offsprings were born with a smaller brain and showed abnormal emotional behavior in adulthood.

This is significant because people in many countries these days have similarly poor dietary patterns and tend to consume more seed oils that are rich in omega-6 fatty acids and less fish rich in .

According to Professor Osumi, the brain abnormality found in the offsprings of mice used in the study, was caused by a of fetal neural stem cells that produce brain cells. The premature aging was promoted by an imbalance of oxides of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The offsprings also showed higher anxiety levels, even though they were raised on nutritionally optimized diets from an early lactation period.

A diet that contains a good balance of omega-6 and omega-3 is known to improve the development of brain functions; this is based on earlier researches that evaluated the effects of maternal intake of an omega-3-poor diet on brain function in children.

The new study took this premise further and focused on the effects of dietary lipids on the brain formation. The results reveal why omega-6 and omega-3 balance is important for future function, and reinforces earlier suggestions that more fish intake by women during pregnancy can advantageously affect the child's health.

Explore further: Lower availability of omega-3 fatty acids associated with bipolar disorder

More information: Nobuyuki Sakayori et al. Maternal dietary imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids impairs neocortical development via epoxy metabolites, STEM CELLS (2015). DOI: 10.1002/stem.2246

Related Stories

Lower availability of omega-3 fatty acids associated with bipolar disorder

November 25, 2015
People with bipolar disorder have lower levels of certain omega-3 fatty acids that cross the blood-brain barrier than people who do not, according to researchers from Penn State College of Medicine and the National Institutes ...

Pregnant Alberta women not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids: study

July 14, 2015
Nearly three-quarters of pregnant and lactating women in Alberta are not meeting the recommended intake of specific omega-3 fatty acids vital to their babies'development and to their own health, according to new research ...

Insects are a sustainable source of omega-3

January 8, 2016
Insect oil is a possible new source of the healthy omega-3 fatty acid. Insects make fatty acids by nature and can live on organic waste. Wageningen University examines which insects can best be used for oil and what their ...

Can fish oil help preserve brain cells?

January 22, 2014
People with higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may also have larger brain volumes in old age equivalent to preserving one to two years of brain health, according to a study published in the January ...

Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids may cause memory problems

February 27, 2012
A diet lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients commonly found in fish, may cause your brain to age faster and lose some of its memory and thinking abilities, according to a study published in the February 28, 2012, print ...

High serum omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid content protects against brain abnormalities

October 17, 2013
According to a new study, high long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid content in blood may lower the risk of small brain infarcts and other brain abnormalities in the elderly. The study was published in Journal of ...

Recommended for you

Researchers find way to convert bad body fat into good fat

September 19, 2017
There's good fat and bad fat in our bodies. The good fat helps burn calories, while the bad fat hoards calories, contributing to weight gain and obesity. Now, new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. ...

New model may help science overcome the brain's fortress-like barrier

September 19, 2017
Scientists have helped provide a way to better understand how to enable drugs to enter the brain and how cancer cells make it past the blood brain barrier.

Cell-based therapy success could be boosted by new antioxidant

September 19, 2017
Cell therapies being developed to treat a range of conditions could be improved by a chemical compound that aids their survival, research suggests.

Study suggests epilepsy drug can be used to treat form of dwarfism

September 19, 2017
A drug used to treat conditions such as epilepsy has been shown in lab tests at The University of Manchester to significantly improve bone growth impaired by a form of dwarfism.

Research predicts how patients are likely to respond to DNA drugs

September 19, 2017
Research carried out by academics at Northumbria University, Newcastle could lead to improvements in treating patients with diseases caused by mutations in genes, such as cancer, cystic fibrosis and potentially up to 6,000 ...

Urine output to disease: Study sheds light on the importance of hormone quality control

September 18, 2017
The discovery of a puddle of mouse urine seems like a strange scientific "eureka" moment.

0 comments

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

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.