Long chain omega-3 fatty acids Ecosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are critical for brain and eye health and development throughout the course of life. The western diet is deficient in high quality omega-3 fatty acids and is loaded with processed vegetable oils. This critical imbalance is a significant factor in many of the modern day neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disease processes.
The brain undergoes its most rapid development as a fetus in the womb. During this gestational period, the fetus is completely dependent upon its mother to supply these critical fatty acids. If mom is deficient in EPA and DHA herself, the body will pull it out of her own neuronal cell membranes in order to get it to the developing baby. This causes a significant change in the mother's nervous system function and sets her up for postpartum depression, hormonal abnormalities, headaches, etc. in post-birth recovery.
The brain development is such an intense process that nearly 70 percent of the energy supply during fetal development is devoted to this process. The brain is 60 percent fatty acids and 30 percent DHA by composition. The average EPA/DHA intake is 150 mg daily which is far below the minimal recommended dose of 650 mg that experts recommend for normal development.
DHA deficiency linked with infant health problems
Low DHA status in newborns is a prime cause for neurological abnormalities. Researchers measured DHA and other essential fatty acids along with trans-fatty acid levels in the blood supply of infants. They found that infants with neurological deficits at birth had significantly lower levels of DHA and higher levels of trans-fatty acids than the normal infants.
Other studies have shown that lower DHA levels correlated with higher rates of attention disorders and distractibility levels and lower levels of muscle function and coordination which are primarily controlled by the brain. This is due to the fact that DHA deficiencies lower the dopamine receptor, D2, in the frontal lobe which is responsible for attention and focus. DHA deficiencies also decrease cerebellum function which is responsible for coordinating motor movements among many other things.
As we age with a deficiency in EPA and DHA, we are highly susceptible to depression, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, and suicidal tendencies. This is due to the critical role that EPA and DHA play in the serotonergic neurotransmitter receptor systems. Without these omega-3 fats, the neural tissue cannot respond effectively to serotonin and other neurotransmitters.
Fortunately, studies have shown that DHA deficient individuals can reverse some of the structural abnormalities in the brain with an anti-inflammatory, omega-3 rich diet. The addition of EPA and DHA into the diet has been shown to create very quick changes in the neuronal cell membranes. The anti-inflammatory brain enhancing diet is rich in anti-oxidant, phytonutrient rich vegetables, good fats, and grass-fed and free-range animal products along with healthy omega-3 supplementation from a high-quality, purified fish oil source and anti-inflammatory herbs such as cinnamon, ginger, oregano, turmeric, and rosemary.
These diet and supplement changes have been shown to improve focus, attention, and reduce addictive tendencies by enhancing the dopamine - frontal lobe relationship. This diet also improves the serotenergic systems by reducing inflammatory levels in the brain which greatly benefits individuals with mental disorders.
American culture takes in the majority of its fat in the form of processed vegetable oils and grain-fed meat products. These sources are very scarce in quality omega-3 fats and therefore, many are deficient in the necessary EPA and DHA for optimal brain development. Begin supporting your nervous system appropriately with an anti-oxidant, phytonutrient rich diet and purified EPA and DHA supplementation.