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A mother’s diet during breastfeeding is crucial to an infant’s development and lifelong health. Findings from a new study show that maternal intake of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with larger brain volumes in breastfed or mostly breastfed infants.
Omega-3 fatty acids play key roles in infant brain development. Intake of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), in particular, is associated with improved mental and psychomotor development. DHA is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in a newborn’s brain.
The study involved 92 one-month-old full-term infants who were breastfed exclusively or most of the time. The infants' mothers completed food frequency questionnaires about their dietary intake and the infants underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies. The MRI studies revealed that infants of women who consumed higher quantities of omega-3 fatty acids had greater brain volume in specific regions of the frontal cortex and corpus callosum – areas of the brain involved in consciousness, communication, memory, attention, and integration of motor, sensory, and cognitive performance between the brain’s hemispheres, respectively.
These findings suggest that dietary and supplemental omega-3 fatty acids intake may have beneficial effects on infant brain development.