Essential Fatty Acids

There is a body of evidence suggesting that dietary supplementation with docosahexanoic acid (DHA; 22:6, «-3) and arachidonic acid (AA; 20:4, n-6) is effective in reducing the symptoms of clinical depression and schizophrenia. These fatty acids are also important for the development of the central nervous system in mammals. Recent work has demonstrated that maternal supplementation with these particular fatty acids during pregnancy significantly improves children's IQ at age 4 compared with children whose mothers took corn oil during pregnancy. There is no convincing evidence yet concerning the effects of essential-fatty-acid supplementation on the cognitive function of the elderly, although one study has found a correlational link between n-3 fatty-acid intake and the risk of developing Alzheimer's dementia. The proposed modes of action of these fatty acids involve their antithrom-botic and anti-inflammatory properties in addition to their being a primary component of membrane phospholipids in the brain.

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