When it comes to supporting healthy brain development, you could say that DHA is the big fish in the pond. It has a vital role to play, and is especially important for your child during some of the most critical years of their growth and development.
But what is DHA? Why is it important, and how do you ensure your child is getting enough of it?
Put on your swim suit, your goggles and inflate those floaties, because we're about to dive into the answers!
What is DHA?
DHA is a long chain omega-3 fatty acid known as Docosahexaenoic Acid. Quite the mouthful, which is why it's most commonly referred to as DHA. This fatty acid is found all throughout the body, but it is the main fatty acid found in the retinas and brain¹.
Recognised as an essential nutrient, DHA is vital for the maintenance of your child's optimal health².
DHA makes up approximately 97% of all omega-3 fatty acids in the brain and 93% of omega-3 fatty acids in the retinas³. DHA is considered to be a major structural fat in that regard³, and therefore plays a well-established role in the growth and function of the brain1, 4, 5.
DHA and the Brain During Early Development
DHA is crucial for cognitive development2,6, especially during the first years of life. Distributed across the cerebral cortex, neuronal membranes and the retina, DHA is deposited at an accelerated rate in the last trimester of gestation and during the first two years of life2,6. This is why it is essential to ensure your child is getting their fill of this fatty acid during the early stages of their life.
The brain tissue content of DHA is vital for supporting brain system development and function.
This can start in your little one as early as six months of age, but continues all throughout childhood and well into adolescence1, 2, 6.
Essentially, the key benefits of DHA for babies and kids are:
- Maintaining normal brain development and function1
- Helping to support the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system5
- Supporting eye health, maintaining healthy vision and supporting retina health5
Where Can You Find DHA
If you're looking for sources of DHA for your little one, head straight to the fish section of the supermarket. Primarily, this omega-3 fatty acid can be found in fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and sardines.
While DHA can be found naturally in these fish, getting your kids to eat them may be another matter altogether.
If you have a fussy eater in the family, you may find a DHA supplement to be useful.
You can find a wide range of DHA supplements in pharmacies and in some supermarkets, but if you're concerned that your little one might not be getting enough DHA through their diet, have a chat to your local healthcare professional about the best course of action.
At Brauer Natural Medicine, we understand that sometimes, despite your best efforts, your child's diet alone might not cut it in regards to getting their fill of DHA. That's why we developed our Baby & Kids Ultra Pure DHA. Sourced from deep sea, cold water fish, our high-quality DHA can be used from 7 months of age and is 100% sugar free. If you'd like to learn more about Brauer Baby & Kids Ultra Pure DHA, you can find more information here.
1. Kuratko, C, Barrett, E, Nelson, E & Salem, N. (2013). The Relationship of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) with Learning and Behaviour in Healthy Children: A Review. Nutrients, 5 (7), 2777-2810. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3738999/
2. Lauritzen, L, Brambilla, P, Mazzocchi, A, Harslof, L, Ciappolino, V & Agostoni, C. (2016). DHA Effects in Brain Development and Function. Nutrients, 8 (1), doi:10.3390/nu8010006. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728620/
3. Bos, DJ, Van, SJ, Oranje, B, Durston, S & Smeets, PA. (2016). Effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on human brain morphology and function: What is the evidence?. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 26 (3), 546-561. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26742901
4. Innis, S. (2008). Dietary omega 3 fatty acids and the developing brain. Brain Research, 1237, 35-43. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18789910
5. Schuchardt, J, Huss, M, Stauss-Grabo, M, and Hahn, A. (2009). Significance of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) for the development and behaviour of children. European Journal of Pediatrics, 169(2), 149-164. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19672626
6. Weiser, M, Butt, C & Mohajeri, M. (2016). Docosahexaenoic Acid and Cognition throughout the Lifespan. Nutrients, 8 (2), 99 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26901223