Mental Health and Cognition

Learning and Behavior in Adolescents Whose Mothers Ate Fish During Pregnancy

Persistent worries about the potential dangers from consuming fish and the methylmercury they contain continue to frighten women away from eating fish during pregnancy, especially in the U.S. Mercury is present in nearly all seafood in the form of methylmercury. Seafood consumption is already very low in the U.S. and Canada, as shown in government surveys and research studies. Some estimates suggest that as many as 20% of women of child-bearing age eat no fish or shellfish. This poses a problem for women during pregnancy and lactation. Women who eat…

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Depressive Symptoms in Early Pregnancy Linked to Lower Breast Milk DHA Levels

Some women develop depressive symptoms during or after childbirth, but it is unclear why some women do and others do not. A history of depressive illness and difficult socioeconomic conditions increase the risk of developing this condition, but other factors, including nutrition may contribute as well. Several studies have examined whether a woman’s long-chain fatty acid status is associated with the odds of developing perinatal depressive symptoms. There is good reason to think that having too little of the long-chain omega-3s found in fish and shellfish in tissues may contribute…

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Postpartum Depressive Symptoms Linked to High Omega-6 and Low Omega-3 Intakes

Depressive illness during and after pregnancy affects from 10% to 40% of women worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. The occurrence of this burdensome condition is higher in less developed countries where treatment may be limited and difficult living conditions complicate the situation. Having previously had depressive illness and low nutrient intakes increase the risk for developing this troublesome condition. Improving the nutrient intakes of pregnant and nursing women may be one of the more feasible approaches to reducing the occurrence of depressive symptoms. Dietary fat, particularly the type…

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Challenge: Assessing Brain Fatty Acid Changes During Cognitive Decline

There is a growing literature about the links between the consumption of fish and shellfish, tissue levels of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3s) found in seafood and the odds of developing age-related dementia. The most well known example of advanced mental loss is Alzheimer’s disease, a condition prevalent in adults above the age of 65. About 13% of these adults have Alzheimer’s disease, but nearly half (45%) of those 85 years of age or more have the condition, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Ultimately, the disease is fatal. Although much…

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Is Suicide in US Military Personnel Related to Low DHA Status?

Suicide is a global problem, prevalent among adolescents, the elderly and active-duty military personnel. Among US active-duty military, suicide is the second leading cause of death, whereas in the general adult population, it ranks ninth. What attracted popular attention to this high occurrence was a news report that up until 2009, the number of suicides in the US military exceeded the number of combat deaths. This fact also drew the attention of researchers in the Uniformed Services University and the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, USA. It is known that…

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Long-Chain PUFA Status at Birth May Relate to Behaviors at Age 10

There is a small, but growing, literature on the relationship between long-chain omega-3 PUFA (n-3 LC-PUFA) status at birth and later child development, cognition and behavior. Do the observations reported in the first year of life extend into later childhood? Do relationships appear later that were absent in infancy? There are not many studies to answer these questions. One example is a report that the quality, but not the quantity of motor function at age 7 was associated with higher umbilical DHA levels. The children also had fewer problem behaviors…

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DHA has Positive Effects in Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (Figure) results in about 53,000 deaths in the U.S. every year, with nearly twice that number suffering permanent disability, which sometimes includes diminished cognitive ability. Treatments with long-term benefits are few and of limited effectiveness. One potential treatment to watch for is progesterone, a female hormone that may have neurological benefits. Another potential treatment is DHA, a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid found mainly in fish and fish oil. There is a strong rationale to investigate the effects of DHA in brain and spinal cord injury. It is…

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Is Suicide in US Military Personnel Related to Low DHA Status?

Suicide is a global problem that is more prevalent among adolescents, the elderly, war veterans and active-duty military personnel. The latter are of particular concern regarding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, among whom suicide is the second leading cause of death (13.1%) compared with the ninth rank for the general US adult population (1.8%). Up to 2009, the number of suicides exceeded the number of combat deaths in the US military. Although a past attempted suicide is a strong predictor of suicide, other conditions, such as mental disorders, including depressive…

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Positive Effects of DHA in Experimental Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury results in 53,000 deaths in the U.S. every year (Figure), with nearly twice that number suffering permanent disability, including diminished cognitive ability. Treatments with long-term benefits are few and of limited effectiveness.  Progesterone may have neurological benefits and is in a Phase III clinical trial for patients with moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury. Attention has also turned to the potential effects of DHA in preventing and ameliorating traumatic brain and spinal cord injury. DHA involvement in neuronal membrane structure and function, learning and memory, as well as neuroplasticity…

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