DHA

Background

DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) is a polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid, which is essential for normal brain function at all ages, including growth and development of the infant brain, as well as skin and retina health. It has 22 carbons in chain length with 6 double bonds. DHA has a great impact on your brain’s signaling systems, neurotransmitters, learning and memory, focus and concentration. It helps improve cognitive performance. DHA can be found in fish oil and in human breast milk. DHA food sources include caviar, Atlantic herring, Pacific mackerel, salmon, American shad, bluefin tuna, whitefish, and algae. Since DHA is not produced in the body, foods or supplements are needed to eliminate DHA deficiency. People are now leaning to this wonderful brain tonic supplement to support their nervous system, heart and brain. It is vital for brain development and function in childhood, as well as brain function in adults. DHA improves learning abilities, helps people with many neurological disorders including ADHD and Alzheimer’s disease.[1][2]

Benefits

DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega 3 fatty acid essential for the growth and functional development of the brain in infants. DHA is also required for maintenance of normal brain function in adults. This supplement offers a wide variety of health benefits. Like other nootropics, it seems particularly capable of promoting brain health by protecting neurons from injury and deterioration. When you include DHA in your diet, you will experience improved cognitive performance and improved learning ability. It will help patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Alzheimer disease, cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. DHA has a positive effect on diseases such as hypertension, arthritis, atherosclerosis, depression, adult-onset diabetes mellitus, myocardial infarction, thrombosis, and some cancers.[3]
The common health benefits of DHA include:

  • Increases cognition [4]
  • Improves mood [5]
  • Helps reduce depression [6]
  • Supports the nervous system [7]
  • Supports fetal and infant development [8]
  • Improves vision and eye health [9]
  • Relieves rheumatoid arthritis symptoms [10]
  • Enhances learning and memory [11]
  • Improves heart health [12]
  • Helps people fight cancer [13]
  • Boosts immune function [14]
  • Helps with asthma symptoms [15]
  • Helps people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) [16]
  • Helps people who have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia symptoms [17]
  • Helps with diabetes [18]
  • May help decrease the joint pain and fatigue [19]
  • May reduce aggressive behavior [20]

DHA is used in combination with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) for a variety of conditions, including the relief and reversal of heart disease, stabilizing heart rhythm, asthma, cancer, painful menstrual periods, hayfever, lung diseases, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and certain kidney diseases. EPA and DHA are also used in combination for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, psoriasis, Raynaud’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, bipolar disorder, certain inflammations of the digestive system (ulcerative colitis) and preventing migraine headaches in teenagers. It is also used in combination with evening primrose oil, thyme oil, and vitamin E (Efalex) to improve movement disorders in children with a condition called dyspraxia.[21]

How it works

DHA is highly enriched in the brain and is required for proper brain development and function. Dietary fatty acid supplements including DHA have been suggested to improve neuronal development and enhance cognitive functions. DHA may also reduce the risk of heart and circulatory diseases by lessening the thickness of the blood and lowering blood levels of triglycerides.
Actually, your brain is composed of 60% fat and 15 – 20% of your cerebral cortex is DHA whereas the retina in your eyes is 30 – 60% DHA. Since the highest levels of DHA in the body are found in the cerebral cortex and retina, wherein the mechanisms of action of DHA have been studied extensively in supporting optimal mental and visual acuity, respectively, numerous clinical trials have evaluated the effect of formula supplemented with LCPUFA (incl. DHA) on infant cognition and visual performance. A study concludes it experiment overall that, compared to the placebo (control) groups, the presence of DHA significantly improved cognitive development in infants, including the Mental Development Index, the Psychomotor Development Index, and language, motor, and cognitive abilities. However, there is a large body of literature in support of the importance of optimal DHA provision for cognition throughout the human lifespan.

Considerations

DHA is generally safe when taken in moderate doses. However, it may cause some negative side effects such as nausea, intestinal gas, bruising, and prolonged bleeding. Fish oils that contain DHA can cause fishy taste, belching, nosebleeds, and loose stools. But when DHA is taken with meals, it can often decrease these side effects.
When taken in more than recommended dosage, both DHA and EPA supplements can suppress blood clotting, thin the blood and increase risk for abnormal bleeding. You are suggested not to use it with anti-coagulant or anti-platelet medications. Again, DHA seems to increase blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. If you are allergic to fish oil, you should not take omega-3 fatty acids or fish. DHA may interact with blood pressure medications by heightening their ability to reduce blood pressure. Consult your physician or healthcare provider to start any supplement.

Recommendations

DHA is usually administered with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) as fish oil. A recommended dosage range for the adults over 15 years of age can be a minimum of 500 mg of EPA and DHA daily (220 mg of DHA and 220 mg of EPA) to enjoy their maximum health benefits. However, a higher ratio of DHA to EPA can help support more brain function.

Sources