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Biomedicines - Mental Health in Childhood and Adolescence: The Role of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

Bozzatello P, Blua C, Rocca P, Bellino S (2021) Biomedicines 9(8), 850 DOI: 10.3390/biomedicines9080850 

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There is increasing awareness of the importance of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) for optimal brain development and function.

In recent decades, researchers have confirmed the central role of PUFAs in a variety of patho-physiological processes. These agents modulate the mechanisms of brain cell signalling including the dopaminergic and serotonergic pathways. Therefore, nutritional insufficiencies of PUFAs may have adverse effects on brain development and developmental outcomes.

The role of n-3 PUFAs has been studied in several psychiatric disorders in adulthood: schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorders, eating disorders, substance use disorder, and borderline personality disorder.

In contrast to the great number of studies conducted in adults, there are only limited data on the effects of n-3 PUFA supplementation in children and adolescents who suffer from mental disorders or show a high risk of developing psychiatric disorders.

The aim of this review is to provide a complete and updated account of the available evidence of the impact of polyunsaturated fatty acids on developmental psychopathology in children and adolescents and the effect of fatty acid supplementation during developmental milestones, particularly in high-risk populations of children with minimal but detectable signs or symptoms of mental disorders.