Project: Research project

    Project Details


    DESCRIPTION The essentiality of dietary n-3
    fatty acids remains an unresolved issue in human nutrition. The high
    content of docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n3 or DHA) in the phospholipids of
    retina and cerebral cortex suggested an important role in photoreceptor and
    neuronal membrane functions. We have observed significant effects of n-3
    fatty acid deprivation in rhesus monkeys during combined prenatal and
    postnatal development. DHA levels in retinal and brain phospholipids were
    greatly reduced, and visual acuity development and electroretinograms were
    abnormal. Effects on the electroretinogram (ERG) were not reversible by
    refeeding with fish oil or pure DHA at 10 months or older. Behavioral
    effects included large increases in fluid intake (polydipsia), increased
    stereotyped behaviors, and persevering errors in a learning task. Monkeys
    deprived only postnatally showed similar ERG changes and polydipsia. They
    propose new studies with rhesus monkeys to investigate some remaining
    critical questions about the effects of dietary n-3 fatty acid deficiency:
    (1) What dietary n-3 fatty acid is optimal for functional development?
    Should infants receive preformed DHA or can they synthesize sufficient DHA
    from dietary alpha-linolenic acid? (2) What minimum amount of dietary n-3
    fatty acids is needed to promote normal postnatal development? Are
    sufficient quantities provided by some widely-used human infant formulas?
    (3) Can effects of the deficiency on retinal function be reversed by
    refeeding with n-3 fatty acids at ages earlier than 10 months, and can a
    critical period be defined? (4) Can effects of low dietary n-3 fatty acids
    be separated from those of high n-3 fatty acids? (5) Does n-3 fatty acid
    deficiency affect sensory systems other than visual; and does the
    deficiency affect complex cognitive abilities including learning and
    memory? (6) How does the deficiency alter phospholipid molecular species
    composition, activity of key enzymes in brain phospholipid metabolism,
    vitamin E and peroxide levels in plasma and tissues, and lipofuscin
    accumulation in the retina and other tissues? These studies will help to
    determine nutritional needs for n-3 fatty acids during development and to
    establish the role of these fatty acids in neural functioning. The
    research has important implications for optimum diets of pregnant and
    lactating women as well as infants and children.
    Effective start/end date7/1/813/31/99


    • National Institutes of Health


    • Medicine(all)


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