DHA Promotes Child Health 

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What is DHA?

DHA is the short form for DocosaHexaenoic Acid,  one of the poly unsaturated fatty acids of the group omega-3. They are also known an essential fatty acid, because our body is unable to form indigenous poly unsaturated fatty acids. Therefore the dietary essential fatty acids’ play a crucial role in child health.  It's popularity as a brain food for children is a misconception.

Unsaturated fatty acids are further divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

The fatty acids in Omega-3 group are of the polyunsaturated variety, the healthy fats that plays preventive role in allergies and many diseases. 

Scientific reports in recent years have brought forth several health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids; DHA, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid.) and ALA (alpha linoleic acid).

The depth of information on DocosaHexaenoic Acid is limited till date. Results of many ongoing research projects are yet awaited.  

Importance of DocosaHexaenoic Acid for child health 

DocosaHexaenoic Acid is taken up by the brain in preference to other fatty acids. It plays a major role in adequate vision development of children. It maintains normal brain function not only during childhood development, but throughout life.

Adequate dietary DocosaHexaenoic Acid improves cognitive development of children and diminishes the chances of deficiency associated metabolic and learning disorders. Studies have shown its vital role in development of immune system too. 

Healthy diet that provides 400 mg/day DocosaHexaenoic Acid to an expectant mother is reported to decrease the incidence, severity and duration of viral episodes throughout infancy. 

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Interesting observation of Indian tradition

It has been observed that DHA concentration in human milk varies depending on geographic regions and traditional diet the communities consume. For example, in India the benefits of naturally available DocosaHexaenoic Acid have been employed for generations.

The mothers in India are given lots of dry fruits, milk products and sweets made with ghee during pregnancy and after delivery. Soaked almonds that are well crushed are given to infants for optimal immunity and brain development. It is also believed to enhance cognitive skills development in infants.

Food sources

Infants usually get their daily requirement from mother’s milk. Most infant formulas are now fortified with DHA for child health betterment. Its content in egg is 95 to 120 mg.  

Fatty fishes such as, salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, shellfish, and herring are a rich source of  DocosaHexaenoic Acid but meats are comparatively poorer. One small serving of fish in diet of a growing child suffices his daily requirement. 

Its vegetarian sources are very limited. It is found in nuts and seaweed which are not often eaten by children. Moreover, the body's capacity to convert dietary EPA and ALA into DocosaHexaenoic Acid is very limited. Therefore many people now indulge into DHA supplements available off the counter. But how much supplementation is safe for children?

Recommended daily requirement of DHA for child health

Children: 200 to 400 mg per day.

  • Fish eating children can get their daily requirement of DocosaHexaenoic Acid from 2 moderate size of oily fish meals per week.

  • Milk and milk products from naturally nurtured cows offer its reasonable amount in child’s diet.

  • Almonds and cashew nuts are also known to be rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids.

During pregnancy and lactation mothers need 300 – 600 mg per day of  DocosaHexaenoic Acid.

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