Dietary Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids for Optimal Neurodevelopment

Recommendations for Perinatal Nutrition
  • Ricardo Uauy-Dagach
  • Patricia Mena
  • Patricio Peirano
Part of the Nutrition ◊ and ◊ Health book series (NH)


Multiple studies over the past four decades have addressed the evaluation of the effects of early human malnutrition on central nervous system (CNS) development in experimental animals and humans. From the results of these studies, one can conclude that a reduction in energy and/or essential nutrient supply during the first stages of life have profound effects on somatic growth and organ structural and functional development, especially for the brain. Malnutrition impairs brain development, reducing cell replication cycles and dendritic connections. Different regions of the brain are impacted in specific ways; cell number as measured by DNA content is especially affected by intrauterine malnutrition and early postnatal malnutrition, whereas synaptic connectivity is particularly affected if malnutrition occurs after birth but before the third year of life (1). Beyond the brain’s “growth spurt,” alterations in dietary precursors may determine, in part, neurotransmitter levels (serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, acetylcholine) in specific brain regions, and essential and nonessential lipid supply may affect the structural composition of the brain and of myelin sheaths (2). The functional correlates are also significantly modified by malnutrition; the waking electroencephalographic activity, auditory-evoked potentials, sleep-wake organization, as well as neurovegetative activities during sleep have been demonstrated to be disturbed by early human malnutrition (2a).


Human Milk Essential Fatty Acid Infant Formula Gamma Linoleic Acid Protein Energy Malnutrition 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ricardo Uauy-Dagach
  • Patricia Mena
  • Patricio Peirano

There are no affiliations available

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