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Affordable dietary DHA is a social justice issue

Posted by CeliaMRoss on 09 Jun 2014 at 22:10 GMT

Hanson, Hair, Shen, et al. (2013) point to the many faceted issue of poverty and the brain (1). Another facet that should also be considered is the need for affordable dietary docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

It has been asserted that the primal diet was rich in DHA and that the brain evolved a need for substantial amounts of DHA in the diet. (2) DHA is important for maintaining healthy levels of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) and for promoting neurogenesis, among other brain-health effects. (3) BDNF is important for resilience. (4) It is alarming therefore the populations most in need of resilience have less DHA. Cohen et al (2008) found that individuals with a lower socio-economic status (SES) had lower levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). (5) Individuals living in middle and low income countries have less DHA in their diets. (6, 7)

Researchers are investigating the development of plant sources of DHA as a way of making this important nutrient affordable. (8) This is an important social justice effort.

About the author:

(1) Hanson, JL, Hair, N, Shen, DG, et al. Family poverty affects the rate of human infant brain growth. PLoS One. 2013 Dec 11;8(12):e80954.
(2) Bradbury J Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): an ancient nutrient for the modern human brain. Nutrients. 2011 May;3(5):529-54.
(3) Cole GM, Ma QL, Frautschy SA Dietary fatty acids and the aging brain. Nutr Rev. 2010 Dec;68 Suppl 2:S102-11.
(4) Karatsoreos IN, McEwen BS. Resilience and vulnerability: a neurobiological perspective. F1000Prime Rep. 2013 May 1;5:13.
(5) Cohen BE, Garg SK, Ali S, Harris WS, Whooley MA. Red blood cell docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid concentrations are positively associated with socioeconomic status in patients with established coronary artery disease: data from the Heart and Soul Study. J Nutr. 2008 Jun;138(6):1135-40.
(6) Petrova S, Dimitrov P, Willett WC, Campos H. The global availability of n-3 fatty acids. Public Health Nutr. 2011 Jul;14(7):1157-64.
(7) Bermudez OI, Toher C, Montenegro-Bethancourt G, et al. Dietary intakes and food sources of fat and fatty acids in Guatemalan schoolchildren: a cross-sectional study. Nutr J. 2010 Apr 23;9:20.
(8) Petrie JR. Shrestha P, Zhou XR, et al. Metabolic engineering plant seeds with fish oil-like levels of DHA. PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e49165.

No competing interests declared.