DHA (decosa hexanoic acid) is an essential fatty acid, a building block of the brain and the retina of the eyes. Essential fatty acids are required for maintenance of optimal health but they cannot be synthesized in the body and must be obtained from dietary sources.Found naturally in breast milk, DHA is an omega 3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid that helps support the brain and the eye development of your baby.
Brain contains DHA. DHA comprises 40% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in the brain and 60% of the PUFAs in the retina. The human body can also produce DHA from another unsaturated PUFA known as linolenic acid.
Role of DHA.
Foetal and early infant development. During pregnancy there is a rapid deposition of DHA in the infant’s developing brain and eye retina. Small amounts of DHA are also present in cell membranes throughout the body. Babies get DHA from their mothers when they are in the womb. In the first months of life, they get it from breast milk and they are able to make their own DHA in their body. The level of DHA found in breast milk is dependent on the mother’s diet.
Enhancing baby’s immunity – DHA has also shown to have a beneficial effect in enhancing a baby’s immunity by strengthening his developing immune system and assisting in the removal of toxins from the body.
Enhanced visual and problem solving skills. Dietary DHA in pregnancy shows significant improvement in vision, problem solving skills and cognitive development in babies at various times during the first year of her life. This effect is consistent with the increased need of DHA in the brain and of photoreceptor developments that occur during the last trimester of pregnancy.
Nutritional Requirement of DHA.
DHA intake. Dietary DHA has positive effects during pregnancy and lactation .
FAO/WHO has recommended an intake of 10-12 mg/kg of DHA per day for babies aged between 6 months-24 months.
Sources of DHA for the mother . Seafood is the richest source of DHA. Although no specific vegetarian sources of DHA have been recognized, the sources of linoleic acid (the precursor of DHA) can help in building DHA levels It is found in walnuts, mustard seeds, mustard oil, olive oil, flax seeds, fenugreek ( methi) seeds, kidney beans, soya bean and canola oil. Common dietary sources include eggs, meat and fish. DHA is also found in smaller amounts in green leafy vegetables.
Source of DHA for the baby during pregnancy: In pregnancy, the mother’s reserve is the main source of DHA for the baby. During the third trimester, there is rapid accumulation of DHA in the liver, brain and retina of the eyes of the baby.
Source of DHA during Infancy: DHA needs of the baby are met through the breast milk. DHA content of the human milk is atleast 30 times of the milk of other mammals. The DHA requirement of the nursing mother can be further improved by giving adequate supplements and a diet rich in DHA.
DHA is one of the most important element in developing the brain, the eyes, and parts of the cells of your baby so make sure that you eat a diet rich in DHA during pregnancy and lactation.