Health Benefits of DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid)
Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid that can be broken down into essential building blocks of fat, one of which is DHA (EPA and ALA being the others). DHA has been studied extensively and shows promise in reducing heart attack and stroke, improving vision and preventing neurodegenerative disease. DHA has been linked to proper brain development during pregnancy and early childhood years and its powerful anti-inflammatory properties reduce inflammation in the body, including the brain and nervous tissue.
Omega 3 is not made in adequate amounts in the body so dietary sources are a must. The highest amounts of DHA are found in the brain and the retina of the eyes. The brain is made up of 60% fat and DHA makes up about 25% of its total content, while the retina can contain up to 60% DHA.
In this article we will discuss how DHA supplements contribute to a healthy heart, brain, vision, mood and overall health.
Cardiovascular disease has become the leading cause of death in the world. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 17 million people die of cardiovascular disease each year. A heart attack occurs when there’s not enough blood reaching the heart due to narrowing of the arteries. The clot blocks the supply of blood to the heart and it shuts down as a result. DHA decreases triglycerides levels which lowers cholesterol thereby reducing the formation of clots in the arteries. Studies have shown that Omega 3 intake protects the Cardiovascular system and reduces the risk of heart disease by slowing the build-up of plaque in the arteries.
DHA is the most abundant omega 3 fat in the brain. It impacts the brains structure, neurotransmitters, signalling systems, memory, learning, focus and attention. It also stimulates nerve cell growth and assists in brain cell repair. DHA or Omega 3 deficiency has been linked to neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s and Dementia. DHA supplementation restores and repairs brain cell membranes, which reduces neuro symptom occurrences, read more. Studies have also shown that a supplementation of Omega 3 helps to reduce symptoms of ADHD (attention deficit disorder) in children, read more.
DHA builds healthy fetal tissue throughout the body during development and after birth. Studies have shown that mothers who have a high level of DHA during pregnancy, have fewer premature labors, higher birthweight, and the child has a quicker onset of visual and cognitive development.
It is important for all expectant and lactating mothers to supplement with DHA to ensure their child’s healthy brain development. Supplementation may vary depending on the mother’s unique needs. Noo-tropics Prenatal DHA + Ginger is pure sourced DHA blended with an array of nutrients like Folic Acid and Iron. Along with the powerful effects of ginger, to ease stomach upset.
Mental Health and Depression
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. For some, anti-depressants are not a desire nor an option. Omega 3 is a natural alternative where studies have shown that DHA reduces the risk of depression, through its ability to modify and restore neurotransmitter signalling in the brain.
DHA is also involved in the production of serotonin; also known as the “happy hormone”. Its increased levels help to treat anxiety and depression and boost mood. Studies have also revealed that low levels of Omega 3 were found in patients with psychiatric disorders. When given supplementation, the frequency of mood swings and the number of relapses in patients with schizophrenia and bi polar disorder were reduced.
Natural Sources of DHA
DHA’s most common source is fresh water fish like salmon, anchovy, mackerel, tuna and sardines, but comes in an abundant of vegetarian sources as well. These foods include nuts and seeds like almonds, brazil nuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds. Avocados, Brussel sprouts, perilla oil and soybeans. DHA also comes in vegan supplement form as algae oil, flaxseed oil and hempseed oil.
Dosage & Cautions
There are many fish oils on the market and they will all vary in source, fish type (sardine, salmon etc.) and EPA-DHA ratio. This is normal and the option you choose will vary depending on the condition you are treating. For example, if you are pregnant or suffer from dementia, then you would go with a higher DHA ratio. If you had arthritis or any inflammation in the body, you would go with a higher EPA ratio. Recommended daily intake of DHA supplement is a minimum of 1000mg a day. Noo-tropics Ultra Omega is a pure sourced fresh water fish oil offering 1200mg per dose.
Studies have shown that DHA can lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels. If you are currently on medication for hyperglycemia or hypertension, talk to your doctor before supplementing with DHA.
All in all, DHA has earned its spot as an essential fat that is crucial in all stages of our lives. There are decades of research on the importance of DHA and studies have concluded its use effective in the treatment of neurodegenerative disease, heart disease and vision. Whether you are taking an Omega-3 fish oil supplement or acquiring it from dietary sources, this healthy fat should be a part of your everyday routine for a healthy brain and a healthy body.