Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is a specific type of omega-3 fatty acid.
Found naturally occurring in certain fish (with emphasis on mackerel, salmon, herring, and sardines), it has been shown to be one of the most potent health boosters on the entire planet.
DHA is what is known as a ‘Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acid’, as it is 22 carbons long, and has 6 double bonds (making it physically long in structure compared to other fatty acid molecules).
DHA and the evolution of the human brain
An important turning point in human evolution was the discovery of high-quality, easily digested nutrients from coastal seafood and inland freshwater sources.
Previously, Neanderthals sourced protein predominantly from the red meat of wolves, large feline and hyenas. The is little to no evidence of fresh water aquatic species or marine sources of protein in the bone collagen of Neanderthal specimens.
In comparison, seafood consumption of early modern humans was a nutritional staple. Depending on geographical region, freshwater or marine sources of protein made up between 10-50% of the diet for these populations.
Freshwater sources occurred along rivers and included fish and/or water fowl and marine sources were coastal and included fish, shellfish and small slow-moving animals such as turtles or tortoises.
This study suggests that the discovery, and subsequent multi-generational exploitation of aquatic and marine food sources coincides with the rapid expansion of the brain that is unique to modern humans.
This exploitation coincided with a rise in cognitive development leading to a more elaborate enrichment in material culture, such as personal ornamentation, decoration of burials and pottery figurines.
Benefits of DHA in the diet
Supplementation of DHA has been shown to have profound effects on health, wellbeing and overall performance. Due to its somewhat broad influence throughout the body, these effects can impact a number of physiological systems, boosting health in a variety of ways.
DHA has a positive effect on diseases such as hypertension, arthritis, atherosclerosis, depression, adult-onset diabetes mellitus, myocardial infarction, thrombosis, and some cancers.
The human brain requires somewhere between 20 and 30% of the body’s available energy. It is even higher during the early years of life. Both EPA and DHA are responsible for many of the brain’s unique cognitive capacities and advance brain functions.
As DHA makes up about 30% of our brain matter and approximately 50% of retinal structure in our eyes, it stands to reason that its consumption has the potential to impact our brain health and eye health. This has been well supported within the scientific literature.
Consumption of DHA has been shown to protect against age related declines in brain health, brain size, and associated reductions in neural function. With this has come an increase in performance during cognitively driven tasks, in conjunction with improved memory, and an improved capacity for learning.
DHA supplementation has also been shown to have a preventative effect on both dementia and age related cognitive decline, ensuring our mental function well into older age, while significantly reducing our risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
DHA has the potential to improve the state of the body’s cells, while simultaneously reducing harmful inflammation throughout the entire body.
Through these two mechanisms, the supplementation of DHA can cause significant reductions in blood triglycerides, blood pressure, and ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL cholesterol).
DHA has also been shown to reduce cardiac arrhythmias.
As a result, the consumption of DHA can greatly improve our cardiovascular health and function, significantly reducing our risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
DHA is one of the most important nutrients within the entire body, where it is used to make the cell membranes of literally every cell in the body, while also acting as a key structural component for tissues found in the brain, eyes, and skin.
With this in mind, its supplementation can improve brain health, increase cardiovascular function, and cause significant improvement in eye health and function. Making it one of the most effective supplements on the market.