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The role of EPA and DHA in the development of the nervous system

The Omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHS), are one of the few nutrients the amount of which in mother’s milk highly depends on the mother’s nutrition.
The more EPA and DHA the mother consumes during pregnancy and the breastfeeding period, the more of them are in the mother’s milk. These fatty acids play a very important role in the development of the baby’s nervous system, which is extremely rapid during the baby’s first year. The weight of the brain during the baby’s first year increases almost three-fold: from 350g at birth to about 925 grams at the age of one 1;2. Research shows that children born to mothers with a higher concentration of DHA in the body can concentrate better at the age of two. During their first six months, these babies developed quicker than babies born to mothers with a low concentration of DHA in the blood samples taken from umbilical cords 3.

1. Nishimura RY et al. Dietary polyunsaturated fatty acid intake during late pregnancy affects fatty acid composition of mature breastmilk.Nutrition. 2014 Jun;30(6):685-9.

2. Innis SM. Impact of maternal diet on human milk composition and neurological development of infants. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Mar;99(3):734S-41S.

3. Greenberg A. J., Bell J. S., Wendy Van Ausdal. Omega – 3 Fatty Acids Supplementation During Pregnancy// http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2621042/pdf/RIOG001004_0162.pdf (sk.28.05.2013.)

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