Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats necessary for the organism, but it can not manufacture them by itself. There are mainly three types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids represent one third of all lipids of the grey matter of the brain. Particularly DHA (a type of omega-3) is a major structural fat in the brain and retina of the eye.
It is thought that DHA could play a key role in the structural development of neuronal and synaptic membranes. It accumulates quickly in the human brain during the third trimester of pregnancy and during the early postnatal period, resulting in rapid development of brain tissue. Therefore it is essential that the pregnant women have good levels of omega-3 fatty acids for child development.
Pregnant and nursing women should consume at least 200 mg of DHA every day, specifically to provide the fetus and the baby with the necessary amount of these essential nutrients that pass through the placental and breast milk. Women with higher DHA omega-3 intakes have healthier pregnancies, including higher birth weights and fewer premature births.
There is also evidence that DHA may influence the structural development of the retina, and visual learning.