DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an essential omega 3 fatty acid that improves heart health, reduces inflammation, supports cognitive function and vision development, and relieves stress.
Despite the importance of omega 3 fatty acids, the body can only produce small amounts of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) or ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). Therefore, many people today have a lack of DHA.
With a very low prevalence of DHA side effects, millions of people now supplement their diet with DHA capsules to increase their levels of DHA and experience the wide ranging benefits of DHA.
What is DHA?
DHA is an essential omega 3 fatty acid that is required for normal cellular functioning, but can only be synthesized by the human body in limited quantities from EPA and ALA fatty acids. Thus, DHA must be obtained with food or by taking a DHA supplement.
The primary dietary source of DHA is cold water fish such as mackerel, tuna, and cod, or from other marine organisms, such as krill. Those who do not consume sufficient quantities of fish usually supplement their diet with DHA capsules to benefit from DHA.
In the body, DHA plays multiple important roles in protecting cells and promoting functional signals. DHA is one of the most prevalent fatty acids found in the brain and in the retina.
In the brain, DHA is involved in the production of neuroprotective compounds. Its particularly high concentrations in synapses between neurons demonstrates the importance of DHA in brain signaling.
In the eye and throughout the rest of the body, DHA acts to prolong cellular survival and to limit inflammation, particularly by blocking hormone-like molecules called prostaglandins.
DHA health benefitsDHA Omega 3 supplements are associated with numerous health benefits; they can
- improve heart health
- decrease triglyceride levels
- reduce inflammation
- relieves symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
- help maintain visual acuity
- ensure cognitive health, also for patients suffering from Alzheimer or early signs of dementia
DHA supports cardiovascular health
Although the benefits of DHA have been studied in a number of areas, none have been pursued as thoroughly as in cardiovascular health.
A review of clinical studies investigating the benefits of DHA on cardiovascular health largely supports the conclusion that omega 3 fatty acids and DHA reduce mortality associated with a variety of cardiovascular diseases.Additionally, the American Heart Association now recommends that patients with heart disease or high triglycerides should consume DHA daily.
One way DHA improves cardiovascular health is by reducing the level of triglycerides. Multiple scientific studies have demonstrated the value of DHA in decreasing triglyceride levels by as much as 50 percent.
Additionally, many cardiovascular diseases are associated with increased inflammation resulting from prostaglandins. DHA blocks the production of prostaglandins and other inflammatory compounds, increasing cardiovascular health benefits.
There is no doubt that omega three fatty acid supplements contribute to heart health.
DHA supports cognitive function
DHA is crucial to fetal brain development and its high concentration in the brain further supports the role DHA plays in cognitive function.
Additional research to support these basic observations is becoming available. In general, data now shows that increased DHA intake suppresses the loss of mental acuity associated with aging to some degree.
Studies have shown that DHA levels are decreased in patients with Alzheimer's disease and that a diet with increased omega 3 fatty acids reduces the overall risk of suffering from Alzheimer's as well as dementia.
Additionally, children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often have a skewed balance of fatty acids, resulting from a lack of omega 3 fatty acids such as DHA.
DHA supports vision
The eye is a closed environment that relies on a consistently balanced system to allow us to take in visual stimuli. As such, the eye is particularly susceptible to damage from changes in blood pressure and inflammatory stimuli.
DHA has been shown to counteract blood pressure increases and to inhibit inflammation. The increased concentrations of DHA present in the retina suggest that it plays an important role in this context as well.
A clinical study harnessed this information and demonstrated that increased intake can improve overall visual acuity and brightness discrimination in patients with previously impaired eyesight.
DHA and stress
One of the earliest discoveries concerning DHA was its role in reducing stress. Consistently, the addition of DHA to the diet of animals showed a decrease in aggressive behavior, and evidence of altered stress response.
Building on these key findings, multiple studies have since reported that the addition of DHA to the diet can subdue aggression related to stressful life events in humans as well.
Who can benefit from taking a DHA supplement?DHA benefits may be useful if you're suffering from, or have a family history of
- elevated triglyceride levels
- cardiovascular disease
- cognitive impairments, such as memory loss or Parkinson's disease
- Attention deficit or other associated disorders
- poor vision
- increased stress
DHA interactions and combinations
DHA is often taken in combination with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) to increase the beneficial effects on cardiovascular health and triglycerides.
Why take a DHA supplement?
Given the prevalence of DHA deficiency, the extensive list of benefits, and the general lack of serious DHA side effects, people have many different reasons for taking DHA capsules.Research has indicated a beneficial role of DHA in:
- improving cardiovascular health
- decreasing triglyceride levels
- controlling inflammation
- supporting eye health
- reducing stress levels
Other names of DHA:
Docosahexaenoic Acid, ADH, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, W-3 Fatty Acid