Both (n-3) and (n-6) classes of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA), which have ≥20 carbon atoms and double bonds, are important in perinatal development.

Brain and retinal functions depend on the (n-3) polyunsaturate, docosahexaenoic acid [DHA, 22:6(n-3)] not only during gestational development but also postnatally.

Although species differences among mammals are likely, maximal brain growth begins in the third trimester of gestation and continues throughout the first few months of neonatal life. During this crucial period, accumulation of both DHA and arachidonic acid [AA, 20:4(n-6)] in brain and retina occurs 10 times faster than incorporation of their respective precursors, linoleic acid [LA, 18:2(n-6)] and a-linolenic acid [ALA 18:3(n-3)].

In accordance with this knowledge, several authors have demonstrated that plasma DHA is the preferred substrate for retinal uptake in early developmental stages when the demand for DHA is greatest.

PMID: 15284396

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