If you are pregnant or have just given birth to a baby, you might have heard the terms DHA and ARA being thrown around a lot and especially why it is important for you and your growing baby. What exactly is DHA and ARA and why is it necessary for you? In this article, we’ll cover the benefits of DHA and ARA for babies and everything else you need to about these powerful nutrients.
DHA or docosahexaenoic acid is an Omega- 3 fatty acid which is important for our overall growth, development and well-being. It is an unsaturated fatty acid, the kind of fat which is good for us. Our bodies can’t make Omega-3 fatty acid on its own, so it’s important to consume foods like fatty fish (salmon, herring and tuna etc), eggs, chia seeds and walnuts.
It is mostly important for our brain and eye health but it also serves many other purposes like being an antidepressant, decreases the risk of heart disease and can also fight inflammation.
Also read: 5 Benefits of DHA during Pregnancy
Arachidonic acid (ARA) is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid which is also essential for normal health. Due to its qualities, it is deemed necessary for the proper functioning of cells, especially in the nervous system, skeleton and the immune system. It is also found in animal and human fat as well as in the brain, liver, fat tissue and glandular organs. ARA is naturally produced in the body from linoleic acid (another molecule) and can also be supplemented by consuming different kinds of foods.
Along with foods like fatty fish and hard boiled eggs, you can also consume chicken and pasta inorder to get some ARA.
Research suggests that children and adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) commonly have lower blood levels of DHA and ARA. ADHD generally starts during childhood and continues into adulthood. A child or person with ADHD can be seen exhibiting impulsive behaviours and have difficulty in concentrating. DHA and ARA helps in increasing the blood flow to perform mental tasks. SO, DHA and ARA could prevent ADHD and also reduce the symptoms of it.
A premature/preterm birth is when a baby is delivered before 34 weeks of pregnancy. A preterm birth increases the baby’s risk of health problems and might also put the mother’s life in danger. Studies have shown that women who consumed about 800 mg of DHA daily during their pregnancy reduced their risk of preterm birth.
Also read: DHA – Is It Must For Your Baby?
DHA and ARA aids good blood flow and circulation. This helps your blood vessels in becoming larger. This is especially important for a baby in the womb – before birth the umbilical cord acts as your baby’s circulatory system. Your baby’s circulatory system moves blood throughout his body by carrying oxygen and nutrients to his organs. A proper flow of blood affects every organ in your baby’s body to keep him mentally, physically and emotionally stable.
A research conducted by investigators at the University of Kansas and KU Medical Center found that pregnant women who consumed about 600 mg of DHA and ARA in the form of prenatal vitamins, fatty fish and eggs had protected their babies from blood pressure inducing effects of excessive weight in early childhood. The study also shed light on the fact that children who were overweight or obese also had higher blood pressure. DHA and ARA helps in lowering blood pressure in children which in turn may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases later in life.
Among the many benefits of DHA and ARA for babies, your baby’s normal brain development and function is one of them. Not only do they give structure to your baby’s brain cells, they also help their brain maintain its “plasticity”. Plasticity helps your brain change its structure and how it functions. Plasticity also helps your baby’s brain learn new things, change behaviours, adapt and feel emotions among other things. DHA and ARA also supports the growth of new brain cells as we grow older beyond the first two years of our lives.
Also read: How to boost your baby’s brain development
DHA and ARA are critical in the development of your baby’s vision. These types of fats are important for good eye health which include visual development and retinal function. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), DHA is the highest amount of DHA is found in the retina.
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