AdvertisementsTo some extent it can be synthesized by our body from alpha-linolenic acid. Pre-formed docosahexaenoic acid is available in marine sources like fish, krill, microalgae and shellfish.
Health benefitsDHA is a major structural fat component of the human brain, cerebral cortex, testicles and retina. Obviously it is very important for the healthy function of these organs and tissues. The brain and the retinal tissues are highly dependent on it for membrane fluidity and signal transduction. DHA has a positive effect on disorders such as hypertension, arthritis, Alzheimer's Disease, atherosclerosis, depression, ADHD and some cancers.
Mental healthDHA supplementation has been found to delay the onset and also reduce the effects of mental disorders such as Alzheimer's Disease, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and depression.
Alzheimer's Disease and cognitive decline
Docosahexaenoic acid deficiency is associated with cognitive decline. In the brain of persons affected by Alzheimer disease (AD), DHA concentration in membrane phospholipids at synapses and in retinal photoreceptors decreases.
IN AD, the accumulation of extracellular amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide, promotes proinflammatory responses, activates neurotoxic pathways and leads to brain cell dysfunction and death. Dietary supplements counteract Aβ production and accumulation and promote survival in stressed human brain cells. (Walter J. Lukiw et all).
Another health benefit of DHA is in increase in the quality of life of the elderly. Apart from reducing the decline in cognitive performance, it slows the aging process. It slows the telomere shortening, a genetic sign of aging.
Health benefits in depression
DHA deficiency is associated with major depressive disorder (MDD) and suicide. In patients with MDD, there is deficiency of docosahexaenoic acid in the orbitofrontal cortex region.
Health benefits in Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have reduced DHA levels and the intake of docosahexaenoic acid improves the symptoms of ADHD. Insufficient sensorimotor gating is one of the causes for ADHD. Increase in the brain levels of this fatty acid helps in improving sensorimotor gating.
Cardiovascular health benefitsDHA supplementation has been found to improve cardiovascular health. Inflammatory processes are important contributors of cardiovascular disease (CVD), atherosclerotic lesions and their rupture. The DHA benefits include reduction in the concentration of inflammatory biomarker of cardiovascular disease, C-reactive protein (CRP). Docosahexaenoic acid decreases the fasting and postprandial triglycerides. The concentration of small dense LDL particles is decreased whereas large LDL particles is increased. By altering the blood lipid, DHA lessens the inflammatory response. (Darshan S. Kelley et all). Maintenance of normal (fasting) blood concentrations of triglycerides is a health benefit of dietary DHA.
Health benefits during fetal and neonatal developmentThe omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially DHA, are very important for fetal and neonatal development. The development and function of the brain and the retinal tissues are highly dependent on docosahexaenoic acid for membrane fluidity and signal transduction. It may be the contributing factor in cognitive development, bone turnover and adipogenesis. Its health benefits include proper development of optimal visual acuity and neural development.
Breast milk is found to be rich in DHA and breast-fed children show improved cognitive skills. Similarly the infants given formula feed with the supplement showed better cognitive performance. In children of mothers who often ate fish during pregnancy, there was marked increase in I.Q. for their age.
Visual development and function
Docosahexaenoic acid is a major structural component of brain and eye and is vital for their development and function. Docosahexaenoic acid, prevents photoreceptor apoptosis during early development.
Tumor inhibition benefitsDHA supplements have been found to inhibit growth of human colon carcinoma cells. According to a study by Kato T. et all, dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplements, especially docosahexaenoic acid, have significant tumor inhibiting properties. In populations who eat more fish, there is low risk of developing prostate cancer.
Related topics on nutritional deficiency diseases:
Polyunsaturated fat structure.
Monounsaturated fat examples.
Definition of trans fats.
Examples of unsaturated fats.
Protein energy malnutrition in children.
Vitamin deficiency diseases.
Two essential fatty acids.
Nutritional deficiency diseases.
Deficiency diseases of fats.
1.Carlo Agostoni et all. EFSA Journal 2010;8(10):1734 [27 pp.]. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1734
2.Sarah J. Carlson, Erica M. Fallon, Brian T. Kalish, Kathleen M. Gura, Mark Puder. The Role of the ω-3 Fatty Acid DHA in the Human Life Cycle. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr January 2013 vol. 37 no. 1 15-22.
3.Darshan S. Kelley, David Siegel, Dawn M. Fedor, Yuriko Adkins and Bruce E. Mackey. DHA Supplementation Decreases Serum C-Reactive Protein and Other Markers of Inflammation in Hypertriglyceridemic Men. J Nutr. 2009 March; 139(3): 495–501.
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DHA - Health benefits