DHA Health Benefits

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an essential fatty acid required by human body for proper brain functioning in adults and development of the nervous system in infants. It is an omega-3 fatty acid as it consists of double-bond 3 carbon atoms away from the methyl end of the long chain of carboxylic acid that is considered good for optimum heart functioning. There are three types of omega-3-fatty acids: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapantaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Human body has enzymes that help to convert ALA to EPA and DHA, the two essential fatty acids efficiently used by our body. Small amount of DHA is produced by our body naturally from alpha-lenolenic acid, but we need extra DHA from our diet. Fatty acids are found in every cell of human body, but essential fatty acids are mainly concentrated in the brain cells and immune system cells.

Benefits of DHA
The connection between the omega-3 fatty acids and health was established by the scientists when they were studying the Inuit people of Greenland. They did not suffer from heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and other disorders as other populations. Their diet was rich in fat because they mostly depend on whale, seal and salmon. Researchers found that these foods were rich in omega-3-fatty acids that help them in preventing these diseases.

Recently, research studies have supported the fact that DHA can help stabilize the mood. New studies have shown that intake of omega-3- fatty acids such as DHA can help to improve symptoms of depression.

Heart Disease
Omega-3-fatty acids found in fish oil help to lower triglycerides in the blood, decrease the risk of blood clots, help in healthy functioning of arteries of the heart and reduce the deposition of plaque [CLINICAL CARDIOLOGY; Marik,PE; 32(7)365-372 (2009)]. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish, particularly fatty fish found in cold water, at least two times a week. [CARDIOVASCULAR RESEARCH; Den Ruijter, HM; 73(2):316-325 (2007)].

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
As DHA is believed to an essential fatty acid for the growth of brain, researchers have found that eating fish might help in reduction of ADHD signs and symptoms in children and adults. [COMPARATIVE BIOCHEMISTRY AND PHYSIOLOGY; Crawford, A; 54(3):395-401 (1976)].

Infant Development
DHA is found to be an essential fatty acid that helps in the growth and development of the central nervous system and visual acuity in infants. A 2003 study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that mothers who took a DHA supplement during pregnancy have given birth to children who scored higher on intelligence tests at four years of age than children of mothers not taking DHA supplements. [AMERICAN JOURNAL OF CLINICAL NUTRITION; McCann, JC; 82(2):281-295 (2005)].  A 2004 study published in Child Development found that babies whose mothers had high levels of DHA at the time of delivery had better attention spans into their second year of life. Research has found that women with post partum depression have low levels of DHA in their milk and blood. (Journal of Affective Disorders, 2002). Some scientists believe that intake of DHA during pregnancy may reduce the risk of postpartum depression. DHA is also used as a supplement for premature babies in baby formulas during early months of life to promote optimum brain development. This was done because DHA is naturally found in mother’s milk.

Dietary Sources:
The best source of DHA is believed to be fatty fish found in cold water such as salmon, tuna sardines, shellfish, and herring. Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil are also important sources of omega-3-fatty acids.

It is recommended to take 1000-2500 mg of DHA per day.

Fish oil supplements contain both DHA and EPA. EPA is not recommended for children because it may create an imbalance between DHA and EPA. Ingestion of fish oil supplements may produce minor side effects such as stomach upset, flatulence and loose stools.

DHA increases the effect of blood pressure medications and may lower blood pressure.
DHA may also interfere with diabetic medications because DHA is known to lower the blood sugar level by enhancing the effect of diabetic medications.

It may also interact with anti-coagulants and blood thinners such as aspirin. When such drugs are combined with DHA, it may increase the risk of bleeding.

Always consult your health care provider before starting a supplement therapy