Eating fish during pregnancy ensures a balanced intake of fatty acids essential for the normal brain formation of the unborn child, a recent study has found.

The study has found an explanation for the correlation between eating fish during pregnancy, and the health of the baby’s brain.

In an animal study, the researchers noticed that when female mice were fed an omega-6-rich/omega-3-poor diet, their offspring’s were born with a smaller brain and showed abnormal emotional behavior in adulthood. (Fig.1)

The brain abnormality found in the offspring’s of mice used in the study, was caused by a premature aging of fetal neural stem cells that produce brain cells. The premature aging was promoted by an imbalance of oxides of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The offspring’s also showed higher anxiety levels.

This is significant because people in many countries tend to consume an imbalanced omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids diet.

A diet that contains a good balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids is known to improve the development of brain functions.

The new study conducted by researchers at Tohoku University's School of Medicine, also focused on the effects of dietary lipids on the brain formation. The results reveal why omega-6 and omega-3 balance is important for future brain function, and reinforces earlier suggestions that more fish intake by women during pregnancy can advantageously affect the child's health.

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Fig.1 Dietary lipid contains fatty acids such as omega-6 and omega-3, which are essential nutrients for many animals and humans. We found from an animal study the underlying mechanism of how an imbalance of omega-6 and omega-3 affects brain development and causes anxiety in the offspring. This may imply that a balanced intake of lipids (such as the regular intake of fish) during pregnancy is good for the healthy development of the brain of the unborn child.

Credit: Noriko Osum

References:

  • http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160114113410.htm
  • http://www.hindustantimes.com/health-and-fitness/why-fish-intake-by-pregnant-women-improves-growth-of-baby-s-brain/story-JdDi5h7HypwuN70vjtZfwL.html
  • http://www.sciencenewsline.com/news/2016011420420068.html
  • http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-and-fish/art-20044185
  • http://www.pregnancyandbaby.com/pregnancy/articles/967875/pregnancy-health-updates-seafood-iodine-deficiency