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Omega-3 fatty acid is early boost for female preemies

DHA given to newborns in the first weeks following birth improves brain development in girls, but not boys

A triple dose of DHA, docosahexaenoic acid, given to infants born six weeks or more premature boosts brain development in girls but doesn’t seem to help boys, tests at 18 months of age show. Australian researchers report the findings in the Jan. 14 Journal of the American Medical Association.

DHA is a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, one of a suite of nutrients needed for brain development. More than half of the brain is fat, and roughly one-fourth of that fat is DHA. The best sources of DHA are fish such as tuna, herring and salmon, and some organ meats. The human body can also assemble DHA from shorter fatty acid chains found in vegetable matter, such as flax oil, canola oil, leafy green vegetables and walnuts.

But fetuses cannot do this assembly, relying instead on the mother to provide DHA intact via the placenta.

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