Dietary lipids and the brain during development and ageing
AbstractThe brain and retina are rich in long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPs). Docosahexaenoic acid (C22:6 n-3; DHA) particularly has been shown to affect retinal and brain development in humans. Provision of n-3 LCPs in preterm and term babies is associated with enhanced retinal electrical responses to light stimuli and to a pattern of brain cortex-related visual acuity maturation that is similar to that observed in infants fed on human milk. Evidence supporting the potential importance of n-3 LCP consumption for good cognitive health in older age is also beginning to emerge. Cross-sectional and prospective data indicate that higher fatty fish and n-3 LCP consumption is associated with reduced risk of impaired cognitive function or dementia. The evidence suggests that n-3 LCPs act by inhibiting hepatic triglyceride synthesis as well as modulating eicosanoid function, inducing vascular relaxation, and diminishing inflammatory processes and platelet aggregation. T his article reviews the role of LCPs in the brain during development and ageing, and the mechanisms that may explain the observed effects. Keywords: n-3 fatty acids; docosahexaenoic acid; brain; retina; development; ageing
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