Food and Behaviour Research

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Omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies in neurodevelopment, aggression and autonomic dysregulation: opportunities for intervention.

Hibbeln JR, Ferguson TA, Blasbalg TL.  (2006) Int Rev Psychiatry 18(2): 107-18 

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here


Mechanisms by which aggressive and depressive disorders may be exacerbated by nutritional deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids are considered.

Early developmental deficiencies in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) may lower serotonin levels at critical periods of neurodevelopment and may result in a cascade of suboptimal development of neurotransmitter systems limiting regulation of the limbic system by the frontal cortex.

Residual developmental deficits may be manifest as dysregulation of sympathetic responses to stress including decreased heart rate variability and hypertension, which in turn have been linked to behavioral dysregulation.

Little direct data are available to disentangle residual neurodevelopmental effects from reversible adult pathologies. Ensuring optimal intakes of omega-3 fatty acids during early development and adulthood shows considerable promise in preventing aggression and hostility.