What is DHA ?
I have been looking for a suppliment for ADHD patients that would help improve the brain function and generate new brain cells. In my research, I found that most of the formula manufacturers have started using DHA in the infant formulas since last few years. The breast milk contains very high amounts of DHA. By adding the DHA to the baby formulas, there was significant clinical evidennce for improved brain function in infants.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
is a long-chain, polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid. It is found in large concentrations in the retina, brain and adrenals. DHA is the most unsaturated fatty acid available in the diet.
What does it do in the human body?
DHA is important in the body for many functions. About half of the brain and eyes are made up of fat, much of which is DHA. The omega-3 plays an important role in brain and central nervous system development and function, psycho-motor development (such as eye-hand coordination), visual development and function, cardiovascular health, and nerve signal transmission. Recent research is focusing on the important role of DHA in mental and visual development and function during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and in infant and toddler nutrition.
Where does it come from?
DHA is predominantly produced by marine algae and is abundant in fish because they feed on algae. The best sources of DHA are seafood, especially cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, cod, mackerel, halibut, herring, trout and albacore tuna. Fish oils such as cod liver oil are also good sources. Eggs and organ meats have a small amount of DHA. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)—the precursor to DHA—is available through walnuts, flax and canola oil, the body must convert the nutrients in these sources to DHA. For many Americans who eat high quantities of foods containing omega-6 fatty acids (such as beef and eggs), this process can sometimes be inefficient. The best way to optimize DHA intake from fish is to steam it. Other good options include baking, broiling, and grilling. Frying is possibly the worst option, as excessive heat destroys DHA.
How do we get it?
DHA is either present in the diet or it is derived from dietary sources of ALA. Getting it from direct dietary sources (like seafood) is best. Flax seed oil provides ALA, which needs to be converted by the body into EPA and DHA. For many North Americans whose diets are high in fat, conversion can be less than optimal. Dietary saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, trans-fatty acids, and cholesterol slow conversion in proportion to dietary levels. (Vegetarians, who typically don’t consume as much saturated fat, may have more success when consuming non animal sources of omega-3 fatty acids.) Deficiencies in vitamins B3, B6 and C, as well as magnesium and zinc, may also slow conversion until they are adequately supplied.
What is the difference between Omega-3 and Omega-6?
There are two kinds of essential fatty acids in the diet: omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids, which means that they are essential to human health but are not manufactured by the body. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish and certain plant oils. It is important to maintain an appropriate balance of omega-3 and omega-6 (another essential fatty acid) in the diet as these two substances work together to promote health. These are unsaturated fats, as opposed to the saturated fat in meat and butter. Unlike the food sources for omega-3s discussed earlier, omega-6 fats come from meats, safflower, soy, corn and vegetable oil.
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Children and adults with ADHD may have low levels of certain essential fatty acids (including EPA and DHA) in their bodies. In a study of nearly 100 boys, those with lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids demonstrated more learning and behavioral problems (such as temper tantrums and sleep disturbances) than boys with normal omega-3 fatty acid levels. In animal studies, low levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to lower the concentration of certain brain chemicals (such as dopamine and serotonin) related to attention and motivation. Studies that examine the ability of omega-3 supplements to improve symptoms of ADHD are still needed. At this point in time, eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids is a reasonable approach for someone with ADHD. However, from practical stand point, the Mercury and other heavy metal contamination of the fish available in USA markets would prevent us from consuming enough fish to provide the adequate Omega 3 fatty acids. The Omega 3 DHA/EPA product manufactured by NOW Foods of Bloomingdale, Illinois, uses the Molecular Filtration to eliminate the heavy metals and provide 500 mg of EPA and 250 mg of DHA. The are produced as Gel Caps which are rather very large and difficult to swallow. They also manufacture the liquid form of DHA/EPA
How is DHA important to adults?
DHA is important for ongoing brain, eye and cardiovascular health. Throughout our lifecycle, the body continues to turnover DHA—therefore it’s necessary to replenish the bodies supply. It is very important to the brain, retina, testes, and adrenal glands for facilitating optimal functioning. Inadequate DHA in the brain is thought to be an important contributing factor in many of its functional problems, including depression. Keeping a proper balance in the body between omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids can help maintain overall health. Preliminary studies also show DHA’s potential in reducing the risk of certain neurological diseases. Perhaps most important for adults is the connection with cardiovascular health—DHA is a key component of the cardiovascular system, and may prove important in normalizing certain blood lipids. The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings of DHA-rich seafood per week, or for those with existing cardiovascular disease, at least 1,000 milligrams of fish oil supplements per day, under the supervision of their doctor.
DHA is found in cold water fatty fish, including salmon, tuna (blue-fin tuna have up to five times more DHA than other types of tuna), mackerel, sardines, shellfish, and herring. Although some of these fish contain low levels of mercury, the Food and Drug Administration has found that consuming several servings of fish each week poses no risk to healthy people and conveys many health benefits. Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should avoid Atlantic mackerel, shark, swordfish, and tilefish, and should limit consumption of white albacore tuna to under 6 oz. per week. (High-quality fish oil supplements made by manufacturers who test for mercury and other toxins do not pose the same risk of mercury contamination. Read labels carefully and check for purity, or ask your doctor to help you find the best quality DHA supplement.) For infants, breast milk from a well-nourished mother contains significant amounts of DHA, while infant formula often has none.
Can I get too much DHA?
The body is very efficient at absorbing dietary fat. However, omega-3 fatty acids in high doses (3 grams or more) can cause flatulence and diarrhea in some people. High doses can act as a blood thinner, patients on blood-thinning medications should check with your health care provider before using supplements. Conclusion Research behind DHA continues to show that this particular omega-3 fatty acid may have many health benefits in the body, for adults and children alike. Exciting new studies examine the effectiveness in cognitive development, visual acuity, Attention Deficit Disorder, and Alzheimer’s disease which promises to illuminate even more of its necessity in our daily diets.
Where can I get DHA Supplements ?
You can purchase these at Costco, Sam's Club or any other reputable pharmacy.
DHA Supplements are sold at the clinic.