Research has already shown that consuming omega-3 fatty acids may reduce an adult’s risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Now an international team of nutritionists and neuroscientists has found that omega-3s may also be crucial to a baby’s mental health.
Their results appear in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fats that are essential for brain development in fetuses and young children. The research group theorized that if fed a diet almost totally lacking in omega-3s, pregnant women would give birth to children more likely to suffer from depression and other mental health issues.
Using rodents, the team found that females who are omega-3 deficient during pregnancy gave birth to offspring that exhibited neural deficiencies.
One type of neuron, called a cannabinoid receptor, was found to be completely deactivated in these mice. The offspring often displayed the symptoms of depression.
Researchers concluded that omega-3s are vital at nearly any age, and that their absence during gestation may predispose a child to mood disorders.
Omega-3s may be found in meat, fish, eggs, flaxseed oil and milk obtained from grass-fed cows, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.