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Originally published January 20 2009

DHA: A Proven Breakthrough for Pre-Mature Babies

by Susanne Morrone, C.N.C.

(NaturalNews) According to ScienceDaily, Australian researchers found that DHA (decosahexaenoic acid), the most predominant essential fatty acid in our brain tissue, is not developed sufficiently in babies born before 33 weeks' gestation, leading to possible impaired mental development. With DHA supplementation, however, mental development improves.

The world breakthrough came in the six-year study led by Dr. Maria Makrides, Deputy Director of the Women's & Children Health Research Institute and Prof. Bob Gibson from the University of Adelaide. To treat the pre-term babies at risk of developmental disorders, 1,000 mg. of DHA in the form of tuna oil capsules was given to the lactating mothers, with benefits passing through the breast milk. If required, infants were given supplementary formula with matching DHA levels. The trials were conducted in five Australian hospitals with a total of 657 premature babies. These specific findings were presented:

"About 50% fewer infants on high-DHA diets had significantly delayed mental development compared with low DHA diets.

Infants weighing less than 1250 gm (about a third of a full-term baby's weight) who were fed a high-DHA diet also scored better on the mental development scale, with a 40% reduction in the incidence of mild mental delay.

Premature girls in particular who were exposed to DHA-rich diets showed much better mental development than girls fed the low DHA diet."

Professor Gibson's team was at a loss to explain why premature male babies - who are more susceptible to cognitive problems - did not respond to the same extent. There were no obvious differences in mental development between the control group and those administered high doses of DHA. Gibson offered: "Boys may have a faster metabolic rate than girls and need higher doses of DHA to make a difference. We need to do a lot more work in this area to find out why."

Approximately 60% of the human brain is made up of fat, and DHA is a primary structural fatty acid in both the human brain and retina of the eye. Roughly 30% of the structural fat in the brain's gray matter is DHA.

To supplement the diet, sea plants offer a high quality vegetarian food source of DHA. Other food sources are eggs as well as cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout and haddock. When choosing a fish oil supplement, look for words such as pharmaceutical grade, molecularly-distilled and purity guaranteed to assure that the heavy-metals and other contaminants have been removed.

Clearly, DHA is vital for normal brain development of the fetus and infant and to maintain normal brain function throughout our lives.

University of Adelaide (2009, January 14). Breakthrough In Treating Premature Babies: Omega 3 Fatty Acid Supplement. ScienceDaily. JAMA, (2009, January 14)

About the author

Susanne Morrone, C.N.C., is an author, speaker and natural health educator. Her book, "The Best Little Health Book Ever," is the quintessential natural health primer. She is also included in "101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health" by Her mission and educational outreach is found at

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