Visual Function and the Essentiality of α-Linolenic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid in Human Infants

  • Eileen E. Birch
  • David Birch
  • Ricardo Uauy


The availability of omega-3 and omega-6 long-chain polyunsaturated (LCP) fatty acids (FA) has important structural effects on developing organs, most notably on the lipid-rich neuronal membranes of the retina and brain (Clandinin et al., 1980a,b; Fleisler and Anderson, 1983; Martinez, 1992). The last trimester of prenatal development and the early postnatal months represent a period of rapid maturation of the photoreceptors and a rapid increase in the number of synapses and dendritic arborizations in the brain (Mann, 1950; Garey, 1984; Huttenlocher and deCourten, 1987; Fulton et al., 1991; Hendrickson, 1993). These processes require the deposition of lipids, particularly omega-3 and omega-6 LCPs, in neuronal membranes. Any limitation in the supply of LCPs may modify the growth and function of the central nervous system. Indeed, the quantity and quality of LCPs incorporated into neural membranes influences their physical and functional properties (Fleisler and Anderson, 1983; Stubbs and Smith, 1984; Dratz and Deese, 1986; Weidmann et al., 1986; Bourre et al., 1989; Murphy, 1990; Wood, 1990; Foote et al., 1993).


Visual Acuity Human Milk Term Infant Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Dietary Supply 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eileen E. Birch
  • David Birch
  • Ricardo Uauy

There are no affiliations available

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