The article is professionally consulted by Master, Doctor Huynh Bao Toan - Department of Pediatrics - Neonatology - Vinmec Nha Trang International General Hospital.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is essential for the growth and functional development of the brain in infants. DHA is also needed to maintain normal brain function in adults. The inclusion of abundant DHA in the diet improves learning ability, whereas DHA deficiency is associated with poor quality in learning.
1. What is DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid)?
Docosahexaenoic acid or DHA is one of two types of omega-3 fats besides eicosapentaenoic acid. DHA is abundant in fatty fish such as salmon or anchovies. The human body can only make small amounts of DHA from other fatty acids, so you always need to get DHA directly from DHA-containing foods in your daily diet. Along with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), DHA helps reduce inflammation and the risk of certain chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, hypertension .... DHA itself has the ability to enhance brain function and improve eye health very well.
2. 12 health benefits of DHA
2.1. Reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases
Omega-3 fats are generally recommended for their cardiovascular health. Most studies on the effects of DHA have been combined with EPA rather than individual studies. Several studies on DHA have shown that DHA is more effective than EPA in improving the health of the cardiovascular system. In a study of 154 obese adults, a daily dose of 2,700 mg of DHA for 10 weeks increased blood levels of omega-3s by 5.6%, reducing the risk of death related to death. heart stroke. Meanwhile, the same 2,700 mg daily dose of EPA only increased the study participants' omega-3 levels by 3.3%. DHA also reduced blood triglyceride levels more than EPA at 13.3% vs 11.9% and increased good cholesterol HDL by 7.6% compared to a slight increase of EPA with only about 5 %. Notably, DHA tends to increase bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) but mainly large, fine-grained LDL, unlike small, dense LDL particles - the leading cause of heart diseases Heart.
2.2. Reduced risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
Adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or ADHD in children is characterized by impulsive behaviors and difficulty concentrating. Omega-3s and specifically DHA in the brain can help increase blood flow to areas of the brain responsible for mental tasks. Many studies have shown that people with ADHD often have lower blood levels of DHA than the general population. In a relatively large recent 16-week study performed on 362 children results. Children who were supplemented with about 600 mg of DHA per day had an 8% reduction in impulsive behaviors as assessed by parents, which is almost double that of the control group. Another 16-week study in 40 boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder given 650 mg of DHA and EPA daily in combination with conventional ADHD medication resulted in a 15% reduction in problems related to distraction.
2.3. Reduce the risk of preterm birth
Giving birth before 34 weeks of pregnancy is called preterm and increases your baby's risk of health problems. Two studies conducted almost simultaneously in the US and Australia showed that women consuming 600-800 mg of DHA per day reduced the risk of preterm birth by 40% (for US women) and 64% (for Australian women). compared with the placebo group. Therefore, to ensure that the baby is born at full term, mothers need to be supplemented with DHA during pregnancy from milk or diet. It is recommended that pregnant women eat about 230 grams of omega-3 rich fish weekly.
2.4. Anti-inflammatory effect
DHA has been scientifically proven to have effective anti-inflammatory properties. Increasing DHA intake may help balance levels of inflammatory omega-6 fats. Women who are supplemented with DHA can reduce the risk of some chronic diseases with age such as heart disease, gingivitis, improve autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis pain.... For example, in a 10-week study in 38 people with rheumatoid arthritis, supplementing with about 2,100 mg of DHA per day reduced the number of painful, swollen joints by about 28% compared with a placebo group.
2.5. Supports muscle recovery after exercise
Intense exercise can lead to muscle soreness. DHA combined with EPA has the ability to reduce muscle soreness and limit the range of motion of the joints after exercise, creating conditions for the body to rest.
2.6. Improve eyesight
There are no studies that clearly show that DHA and omega-3 fats can improve age-related macular degeneration. However, DHA can improve dry eyes and diabetic eye diseases. In addition, DHA also helps reduce the discomfort of wearing contact lenses and reduces the risk of glaucoma. In a 12-week study in contact lens wearers, a daily supplement of 600 mg of DHA and 900 mg of EPA reduced eye discomfort by 42%, comparable to corticosteroid eye drops.
2.7. Reduce the risk of cancer
Chronic inflammation is a risk factor for cancer. DHA supplementation may reduce inflammation and thereby prevent several risk factors for colorectal cancer , pancreatic cancer , breast cancer and prostate cancer . In addition, DHA has also been shown to enhance the effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs during chemotherapy.
2.8. Prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease
DHA is one of the main types of omega-3 in the brain and is necessary for the nervous system. Studies have shown that people with Alzheimer's have lower levels of DHA in the brain compared to the general population. In addition, an analysis of 20 different studies found that adequate intake of omega-3 fats, typically DHA, can reduce the risk of various dementias including Alzheimer's.
2.9. Lowers blood pressure and aids blood circulation
DHA supports good blood circulation and regulates the dilation of blood vessels. DHA combined with EPA may also help lower blood pressure. While DHA reduced mean diastolic blood pressure by 3.1 mmHg, EPA reduced mean systolic blood pressure by about 3.8 mmHg.
2.10. Supports normal brain and eye development in infants
DHA is essential for the development of the brain and eyes in infants, the organs that develop most during the last third of pregnancy and the first few years of life. Therefore, it is most important to supplement with DHA during pregnancy and lactation. In a study of 82 infants, prenatal maternal DHA levels were associated with normal brain and eye development in infants.
2.11. Support male reproductive health
Nearly 50% of male infertility cases are related to male reproductive health, and dietary fat intake has been shown to affect sperm health. In fact, low DHA levels are the most common cause of decreased sperm quality and increased risk of male infertility.
2.12. Improve mental health
The amount of DHA and EPA in the body has been linked to depression. In a study in 22,000 adults in Norway, those who reported taking cod liver oil, an oil rich in DHA and EPA, were less likely to develop depression than others aged 28-30. %. DHA and EPA support serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can help balance your mood. In addition, the anti-inflammatory effect of DHA also helps protect nerve cells, reducing the risk of depression.
3. DHA Supplement
Experts do not set the required amount of DHA for the body, but in general, about 200-500 mg of DHA and EPA per day is a reasonable supplement. Additional sources of DHA and EPA can come from fatty fish, direct sources or both. There is no upper limit to DHA supplementation. However, according to experts' recommendations, the total daily intake of DHA and EPA from all sources should stop at 3,000 mg and of which no more than 2,000 mg should come from direct supplements. In general, each region has its own recommendations for the amount of omega-3 that can be added daily. The European Food Safety Authority states that the maximum amount the body can absorb DHA and EPA per day is up to 5,000 mg. One thing is for sure, supplementing with DHA, EPA or any other substance should be consulted and followed by a doctor's instructions.