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omega 3 brain benefits dha and the brain  brain benefits of dha what is dha  what does dha do

Unleashing the power of your brain: brain benefits of DHA

Published Aug 14, 2023 | Updated Nov 9, 2023
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Omega 3 brain benefits have been talked about for years and as the science evolves, a type of these healthy fats has gained popularity as it contributes to improved memory function[1]. Meet DHA or Docosahexaenoic acid, the fatty compound that impacts cognitive processes and overall brain health. Read more on DHA and the brain, and discover its origins, mechanisms, benefits, and real-world implications for your daily life.


DHA, one of the nutrient superheroes

At the heart of the omega 3 family lies DHA, a nutrient that is defined by researchers as being “required for maintenance of normal brain function in adults”[2]. So, what is DHA? DHA is like the friendly gardener of your body's town. Just as a gardener nurtures plants, DHA supports your brain to improve memory function[1]. It's a special nutrient that helps your town flourish, helping you function better. Being integrated into the building blocks of cell membranes allows it to influence the functionality of brain cells[3].


Sourcing DHA: from ocean depths to your plates

DHA is primarily acquired through your diet[4]. An adult should ingest at least 500mg of DHA daily to observe the brain benefits of DHA[4]. Cold-water fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are rich in DHA. For example, in 100 grams of cooked wild Atlantic salmon, you can find about 1.4 grams of DHA[5]. These marine animals accumulate DHA by consuming algae which is the primary source of this potent fatty acid[2]. Besides seafood, DHA can be procured through algae-based supplements, catering to vegetarians and vegans seeking to reap its cognitive benefits. brain feed developed a plant-based and sustainable DHA supplement, encapsulating algal oil from algae cultivated in clear cylindrical piping - a method of cultivating algae on land that ensures marine animals’ food stays intact.  


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DHA, the brain and the art of communication

Exactly what does DHA do? DHA facilitates brain messaging[6] and plays an important role in modulating the release of brain messengers that contribute to processes such as learning and memory[7]. Think of DHA as a helpful mailman in your neighbourhood who delivers important letters from house to house. These letters are messages that your brain cells send to each other. DHA makes sure these messages get where they need to go quickly and without any mix-ups, so your brain can stay sharp.

Nourishing the mind with DHA

Neuroplasticity, the brain's remarkable ability to adapt and rewire, has also been shown to be augmented by DHA[8]. It enhances the flexibility of brain pathways, ensuring that the brain can efficiently adapt to new experiences and challenges[9]. A study on rats with brain trauma showed that DHA supplementation counteracted the decrease in the brain’s growth protein called BDNF which is pivotal for the growth and maintenance of neurons[8]. This growth factor has been shown to support neuroplasticity and the process of the formation of new neurons called neurogenesis[10,11]. 


Boosting your everyday excellence

The impact of DHA on brain function can also be seen in your everyday life. A study on people older than 55 years old showed that DHA supplementation “improves the cognitive function” resulting in fewer learning errors, and is favourable for individuals with mild memory complaints[12]. Results of another study on older people have shown that individuals supplemented with DHA had better verbal fluency and increases in the control centre of the brain called grey matter[13]. Studies involving a low number of healthy individuals supplemented with DHA showed positive impacts on cognition[14,15], whereas studies involving a higher number struggled to get the same findings[16,17]. More research is needed, however, as Dr Susan Carlson, Professor of Nutrition in the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition at the University of Kansas, USA says “adequate DHA intake may help in the retention of cognitive ability in adults”[18]. 



Through a DHA-enriched diet, you unlock the potential to aid your memory and learning, enriching your day-to-day life and taking a step toward a more cognitively vibrant future.

 

References

[1] EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA). (2016). DHA and improvement of memory function: Evaluation of a health claim pursuant to Article 13(5) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006. EFSA Journal, 14(5), e04455.

[2] Horrocks, L. A., & Yeo, Y. K. (1999). Health benefits of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Pharmacological Research, 40(3), 211–225.

[3] Calder, P. C. (2016). Docosahexaenoic Acid. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 69(Suppl. 1), 8–21. 

[4] Rafati, P., Hameed, M., Huang, X., & Isyaku, K. L. (2020). Review: The effect of DHA supplementation on the human health [Final Report]. University of Salford Manchester.

[5] 200 Foods Highest in Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) (n.d.). My Food Data. https://tools.myfooddata.com/nutrient-ranking-tool/DHA/All/Highest/100g/Common/No

[6] Brenna, J. T., & Diau, G.-Y. (2007). The Influence of Dietary Docosahexaenoic Acid and Arachidonic Acid on Central Nervous System Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Composition. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids, 77(5–6), 247–250.

[7] Tanaka, K., Farooqui, A. A., Siddiqi, N. J., Alhomida, A. S., & Ong, W.-Y. (2012). Effects of Docosahexaenoic Acid on Neurotransmission. Biomolecules & Therapeutics, 20(2), 152–157. 

[8] Wu, A., Ying, Z., & Gomez-Pinilla, F. (2011). The Salutary Effects of DHA Dietary Supplementation on Cognition, Neuroplasticity, and Membrane Homeostasis after Brain Trauma. Journal of Neurotrauma, 28(10), 2113–2122. 

[9] Demarin, V. & Morović, S. (2014). Neuroplasticity. Periodicum biologorum, 116 (2), 209–211.

[10] Calabrese, F., Guidotti, G., Racagni, G., & Riva, M. A. (2013). Reduced neuroplasticity in aged rats: A role for the neurotrophin brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Neurobiology of Aging, 34(12), 2768–2776. 

[11] Chakrapani, S., Eskander, N., De Los Santos, L. A., Omisore, B. A., & Mostafa, J. A. (n.d.). Neuroplasticity and the Biological Role of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor in the Pathophysiology and Management of Depression. Cureus, 12(11), e11396. 

[12] Yurko‐Mauro, K., McCarthy, D., Rom, D., Nelson, E. B., Ryan, A. S., Blackwell, A., Salem, N., Stedman, M., & MIDAS Investigators. (2010). Beneficial effects of docosahexaenoic acid on cognition in age‐related cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 6(6), 456–464. 

[13] Witte, A. V., Kerti, L., Hermannstädter, H. M., Fiebach, J. B., Schreiber, S. J., Schuchardt, J. P., Hahn, A., & Flöel, A. (2014). Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids Improve Brain Function and Structure in Older Adults. Cerebral Cortex, 24(11), 3059–3068. 

[14] Chiu, C.-C., Su, K.-P., Cheng, T.-C., Liu, H.-C., Chang, C.-J., Dewey, M. E., Stewart, R., & Huang, S.-Y. (2008). The effects of omega-3 fatty acids monotherapy in Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment: A preliminary randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 32(6), 1538–1544. 

[15] Lee, L. K., Shahar, S., Chin, A.-V., & Yusoff, N. A. M. (2013). Docosahexaenoic acid-concentrated fish oil supplementation in subjects with mild cognitive impairment (MCI): A 12-month randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Psychopharmacology, 225(3), 605–612.

[16] Daiello, L. A., Gongvatana, A., Dunsiger, S., Cohen, R. A., & Ott, B. R. (2015). Association of fish oil supplement use with preservation of brain volume and cognitive function. Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, 11(2), 226–235. 

[17] Solfrizzi, V., Colacicco, A. M., D’Introno, A., Capurso, C., Del Parigi, A., Capurso, S. A., Argentieri, G., Capurso, A., & Panza, F. (2006). Dietary fatty acids intakes and rate of mild cognitive impairment. The Italian Longitudinal Study on Aging. Experimental Gerontology, 41(6), 619–627.

[18] Interview with Dr. Susan Carlson - Fats of Life: DHA and its Role at Different Life Stages (n.d.). Wyeth Nutrition Science Center. https://hongkong.wyethnutritionsc.org/general-nutrition/interview-dr-susan-carlson-fats-life-dha-and-its-role-different-life-stages

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