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Can DHA Fish Oil Help Improve Your Brain and Body?

Docosahexaenoic acidDHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid and major component of the human brain and other important organs of the body. While a more research is still underway on the health effects of DHA, studies done so far indicate that DHA fish oil may have many impressive health benefits. This article will look at some of these benefits.

Though the body can make DHA, it is only in small amounts. To get adequate amounts, you have to get it through the diet. This can be through regular consumption of fatty fish (such as tuna, salmon and halibut), or taking DHA supplements.

DHA and the Brain

A recent study found that people with low blood levels of DHA had smaller brains and seemed to be more likely to experience cognitive impairment.[1] While taking DHA containing supplements may not do anything as drastic as increase your brain size, it could help lower your risk of contracting age related cognitive decline.

There is also some evidence to suggest that DHA Omega-3 may help improve reading skills in children.

Supplementation with the omega-3 fatty acid DHA may help improve reading skills and behavior in kids who need help most — those whose test scores place them in the bottom 20% of their elementary school class — according to a new controlled trial.[2]

Fish Oil May Help Promote Healing of Venous Leg Ulcers

Venous ulcers are a painful type of wound resistant to treatment. To make matters worse, treating them is expensive. Fortunately, fish oil rich in DHA and EPA may be capable of lowering some of the inflammatory chemicals involved in the maintenance of chronic venous leg ulcers. A researcher from Ohio State University will soon test out the effect of regular doses of fish oil on patients with chronic venous leg ulcers.[3]

Most Americans are Deficient in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

It’s an unfortunate fact that most Americans are not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diet (from either plant or fish sources).[4] If you are one of the many people that don’t consume fatty fish regularly, you either need to alter your diet or take a fish oil supplement.

Unfortunately, some people go for farm raised fish believing that they will get the same nutritional value as from wild fish. Not so. Why?

You see, it is not the fish that make DHA. Rather, it is the diet that the fish feed on in their natural environment; the sea. Farm-raised fish lack this aspect.

Tips on Getting More Omega-3 in Your Diet

  • Eat wild salmon two or more times a week. Salmon is an incredibly rich source of omega-3 fatty acids.[5]
  • Give sardines a try. Although some people cannot stand the taste or smell of sardines, other people take a liking to them almost instantly after trying them. Although a lot less commonly associated with omega-3s than salmon, sardines are a very good source of brain and heart protecting fish oil.[6]
  • Munch on flaxseed meal. Flaxseed contains a lot of plant-derived omega-3s. Try sprinkling a tablespoon or two of flaxseed meal on your breakfast in the morning to give yourself an omega-3 boost. The downside with flaxseed is that it offers ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which has to be converted to DHA, a process that is not efficient and loses much of the DHA.
  • Take a quality DHA fish oil supplement. For most people this is the most convenient and easy way of getting the important fatty acids DHA as well as EPA.

Why Supplements May Be the Best Way to Go

For most people, eating fresh wild-caught fish regularly is a tall order. If you are in this category, and many of us are, taking a DHA fish oil supplement regularly is the best way to go. But there is an additional advantage.

Fish oil supplements are, relatively, not expensive and have the added benefit of not containing harmful chemicals like PCBs and methyl mercury (ocean-caught fish tend to be high in certain toxins because of how polluted the oceans are).

If you are pregnant or nursing, it is an especially good idea to avoid fish and take good quality fish oil supplements instead. You want your baby’s developing brain exposed to as few toxins as possible. At the same time, adequate intake of omega-3s is absolutely essential for the optimal development of your baby. Fish oil supplements may be the best way for pregnant and nursing women to protect their babies from mercury while giving them plentiful amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3s: Is There Anything They Can’t Do?

Omega-3 fatty acids are not a panacea. But of all the nutritional supplements available, they have one of the best track records. Start moving in the direction of improving your health and wellbeing with daily DHA fish oil supplementation.

[1] University of California: More Evidence that Omega-3 Fatty Acids Support Brain Health

[2] Time: Omega-3s as Study Aid? DHA May Help Lowest-Scoring Readers Improve

[3] College of Nursing: Fish oil use may improve healing of chronic venous leg ulcers

[4] Harvard School of Public Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids

[5] Colorado State University: Omega-3 Fatty Acids

[6] Tufts University: Omega-3 Fatty Acids

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