by Amelia Bentrup (NaturalNews)
Natural News readers are likely already aware that fish is considered “brain food” and affects cognitive function. However, until this time, little was known about the interaction between genetics and nutrition. During a recent conference held in Madrid, Spain, the European Commission-funded Nutrimenthe Project hosted a symposium on “Nutrition and Cognitive Function.”
The results of the work of the Nutrimenthe Project and ALSPAC (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children) were presented by Dr. Eva Lattka from the German Research Centre for Environmental Health. Dr. Lattka presented studies showing that gene expression influences the way fatty acids are synthesized by a woman during pregnancy. Specifically, they looked at variations in the FADS (fatty acid desaturase) gene cluster, which is involved in DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) synthesis from omega-3 fatty acids and prostaglandin synthesis from omega-6 fatty acids. Blood samples were taken from women at 20 weeks of pregnancy and again from the umbilical cord at birth and analyzed for omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Over 2000 mothers and babies were involved in this study. It was found that both maternal and child genotype affects the composition of fatty acids in cord blood. The mother’s genotype heavily influenced omega-6 precursors while the child’s genotype was more influential on omega-6 products. Both the mother’s genotype and baby’s genotype equally affected levels of DHA.
Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids. This means that they can not be synthesized by the body and must be consumed. Fatty fish is the main nutritional source of omega-3 fatty acids, although certain plants, such as flax, also contain this essential nutrient. Once these fatty acids are consumed, various enzymes, vitamins and minerals (including zinc and vitamin C) are involved in the conversion of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to other substances needed by the body. Variations in an individual’s genotype affect the production of enzymes involved in this process.
The ALSPAC previously published results in 2007 showing that children of mothers, who consumed more fish during pregnancy, scored better on tests for verbal intelligence, fine motor skills and pro-social behavior at age 8. This study followed more than 11,000 pregnant women living in Bristol, England, and it looked at their fish consumption during pregnancy and followed their children through 8 years of age. At various ages, the children were tested in verbal intelligence, social skills and fine motor skills.
Another study conducted in Quebec, Canada and published May 2011 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutritional showed similar results. This study examined 154 Intuit Children. It was found that children with higher cord plasma concentrations of DHA had higher performance on neurobehavioral memory assessments when assessed at an average of 11 years of age.
For the infant, breastmilk is the primary source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids; it contains very high levels of both. A study consisting of 5934 children from the ALSPAC study showed that those who carried a minor “variant” of the FADS gene cluster and were never breastfeed scored the poorest on IQ tests. These results suggest that fatty acid synthesis along with breastfeeding plays an important role in future IQ.
While we can’t change our genes, we can certainly change our diets. All pregnant women should consume adequate amounts of omega-3 containing foods to maximize brain function in their developing baby. Breastfeeding is also extremely important to insure the infant continues to get adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids before he or she is able to obtain adequate nutrition from solid food.
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Amelia Bentrup is the owner and editor of http://www.my-home-remedies.com a well-researched collection of natural home remedies. Discover natural cures for a variety of ailments and find specific information and safety guidelines for various herbs, vitamins, minerals and essential oils.