Dietary consumption of the essential fatty acids linoleic acid (LA; ω-6) and α-linolenic acid (ALA; ω-3) is necessary for human growth and development.

In the past 150 years, the average Western diet has changed dramatically such that humans today consume a much higher proportion of ω-6 fatty acids relative to ω-3 fatty acids than ever before.

The importance of ω-3 fatty acids in human development has been well established in fetal and neonatal development, with brain and retinal tissues highly dependent on ω-3 fatty acids, specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for membrane fluidity and signal transduction.

In childhood, ω-3s have been shown to contribute to ongoing cognitive development and may be involved in metabolic programming of bone turnover and adipogenesis. ω-3s may also play important roles in adult neurophysiology and disease prevention.