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Essential Fatty Acids Contribute to Healthy Brain Development

Cold-water fish are a good source of essential fatty acids

In the past several years, nutrition researchers have identified essential fatty acids (EFAs) as a key dietary component that contributes to the growth and development of the brain.  These acids are essential because the body cannot make them.

  • EFAs are a key component of the myelin sheath, which helps make transmissions of neural signals smooth and efficient. The Omega-3 fatty acid DHA is especially important because it is found in high concentrations in cell membranes and myelin.
  • EFAs must be consumed through diet or purified supplements. The most plentiful sources of EFAs are nuts, unprocessed oils, cold water fish, and seaweed.
  • The typical American diet is lacking in Omega-3 fats.
  • Nursing mothers need at least one source of Omega-3 rich foods in their diet to support healthy myelination.

Consumption of EFAs is crucial to brain development both during the prenatal and early childhood years and also as adults age. Some research has shown that EFAs can reduce cognitive decline during aging.