Docosahexaenoic Acid Health Benefits June, 2013
Discuss with your doctor before taking any alternative medicine. This article is for
reference only, it is not a medical advice. All rights reserved. Do not copy this article to
other website or blog.
Discuss with your doctor before taking any alternative medicine. This article is for
reference only, it is not a medical advice. All rights reserved. Do not copy this article to
other website or blog.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), cervonic acid, all-cis-docosa-4,7,10,13,16,19-hexa-enoic acid, 22:6(n-3)


Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid, a carboxylic acid(~oic acid) with a 22-carbon chain (docosa- is
Greek for 22) and six (Greek "hexa") cis double bonds (-en~); the first double bond is located at the third carbon from
the omega end. [Wikipedia]

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may benefit premature babies and babies during the first four months of life by
promoting better mental development. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may also benefit people at risk of type 2 diabetes,
coronary artery disease (CAD), dementia,
attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, age-related macular degeneration,
certain mental conditions, stress, certain heart diseases, asthma, cancer, painful menstrual periods, hay fever, lung
diseases, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and certain kidney diseases. In combination with
EPA, DHA may
benefit people at risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, psoriasis, Raynaud’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis,
bipolar disorder, certain inflammations of the digestive system (ulcerative colitis) and migraine headaches in
teenagers. [, 2013]


Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can be obtained from cold water oceanic fish oils and seaweed. There are also DHA
supplements and fish oil supplements containing docosahexaenoic acid.

Potential Health Benefits

A low level of docosahexaenoic acid is found among patients with diseases, such as retinitis pigmentosa, Alzheimer's
disease else.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) AND BRAIN FUNCTIONS
Omega-3 fatty acids are needed for children's brains to develop properly, Diets containing large amounts of
docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) improve learning ability, whereas deficiencies of DHA are associated with deficits in
learning. Researchers from Docosa Foods Ltd, further claim, the visual acuity of healthy, full-term, formula-fed infants
is increased when their formula includes docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). According to their article, DHA deficiencies are
linked to foetal alcohol syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cystic fibrosis, phenylketonuria, unipolar
depression, aggressive hostility, and adrenoleukodystrophy. Decreases in DHA in the brain are also linked to cognitive
decline during aging and with onset of sporadic Alzheimer disease. [Pharmacol Res. 1999 Sep;40(3):211-25.]

However, it is not sure if docosahexaenoic acid can benefit children suffered from
ADHD, as the results are mixed,
though there are some encouraging data. Milte CM and co-workers at University of South Australia, allocated
supplements rich in EPA, DHA or safflower oil to 90 Australian children 7 to 12 y old with ADHD symptoms. They found
that there were no significant differences between the supplement groups in the primary outcomes after 4 mo.
However, the erythrocyte fatty acid profiles indicated that an increased proportion of DHA was associated with
improved word reading and lower parent ratings of oppositional behavior. These effects were more evident in a
subgroup of 17 children with learning difficulties: an increased erythrocyte DHA was associated with improved word
reading, improved spelling, an improved ability to divide attention, and lower parent ratings of oppositional behavior,
hyperactivity, restlessness, and overall ADHD symptoms. [Nutrition. 2012 Jun;28(6):670-7]

Another other recent study also suggests the beneficial effects of DHA on children's behavioral difficulties. They found
that a 1% increase in DHA in cord blood serum was found to decrease total difficulties by (exp)β(adj) = 0.93 and
hyperactivity or inattention by (exp)β(adj) = 0.94. Higher long-chain (LC) PUFA concentrations in cord blood serum
were associated with fewer emotional symptoms [(exp)β(adj) = 0.95, SE = 0.03, P = 0.01], and similarly higher AA
concentrations were associated with fewer emotional symptoms [(exp)β(adj) = 0.94, SE = 0.03, P = 0.03]. [Am J Clin
Nutr. 2011 Dec;94(6):1592-9]

Psychiatric Disorders
McNamara RK and Strawn JR have the following comment: "Nutrition plays a minor role in psychiatric practice which is
currently dominated by a pharmacological treatment algorithm. An accumulating body of evidence has implicated
deficits in the dietary essential long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapenaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic
acid (DHA), in the pathophysiology of several major psychiatric disorders." [PharmaNutrition. 2013 Apr;1(2):41-49.]

Some studies show that intake of fish oil benefits people suffered from depression, but it is unclear if DHA alone has a
similar effect. However,a growing body of evidence suggests that deficits in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may
contribute to major
depressive disorder and principal causes of excess mortality including suicide and cardiovascular
disease. Researchers at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine compared concentrations of docosahexaenoic
acid (DHA, 22:6n-3), the principal LCn-3 fatty acid in brain, in the postmortem prefrontal cortex of adult depressed
suicide victims and controls with and/or without cardiovascular disease. They found that there  was a non-significant
trend for lower DHA concentrations in suicide victims compared with all controls, However, significantly lower DHA
concentrations were observed in suicide victims compared with controls without cardiovascular disease,  but not
controls with cardiovascular disease. McNamara RK and coworkers concluded that DHA deficits in the pathophysiology
of major depressive disorder, suicide, and cardiovascular disease. [J Psychiatr Res. 2013 Jun 4]

Kang JX and Gleason ED from Massachusetts General Hospital have an interesting finding on how omega-3 fatty
acids benefit people suffered from depression. Atrophy in the hippocampus is one of the most significant
neuroanatomical findings in depressed patients, and current therapies for depression tend to increase hippocampal
neurogenesis. They discovered that the fat-1 transgenic mouse, which has enriched levels of DHA in the brain
because it can convert n-6 to n-3 fatty acids, exhibits increased hippocampal neurogenesis. Thus, as least in theory,  
n-3 fatty acids, and DHA in particular, may help prevent and treat depression by virtue of their effects on neurogenesis
in the hippocampus. [CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2013 Apr 4]

Alzheimer Disease, Dementia
Does DHA benefit people with Alzheimer Disease? Or, How does the level of EPA related to Alzheimer Disease? A
group of scientists from Centre INSERM U897-Epidemiologie-Biostatistique, France, found that higher plasma
EPA, but
not DHA, was associated with lower gray matter atrophy of the right hippocampal/parahippocampal area and of the
right amygdala.  Higher atrophy of the right amygdala was associated with greater 4-year decline in semantic memory
performances and more depressive symptoms. [Neurology. 2012 Aug 14;79(7):642-50]

Researchers at  David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, examined the cross-sectional relation of red blood cell (RBC)
fatty acid levels to subclinical imaging and cognitive markers of dementia risk in a middle-aged to elderly community-
based cohort. They found that participants with RBC DHA levels in the lowest quartile (Q1) when compared to others
(Q2-4) had lower total brain and greater white matter hyperintensity volumes with persistence of the association with
total brain volume. Participants with lower DHA and ω-3 index (RBC DHA+EPA) levels (Q1 vs. Q2-4) also had lower
scores on tests of visual memory, executive function and abstract thinking. [Neurology. 2012 Feb 28;78(9):658-64]

DHA may benefit people at risk of certain types of cancers. Merendino N and his group at Tuscia University, Italy,
comments that  docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) has anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, proapoptotic, antiangiogenetic,
anti-invasion, and antimetastatic properties. DHA can exert antitumor activity potentially representing an effective
adjuvant in cancer chemotherapy. [Biomed Res Int. 2013;2013:310186.]

Researchers at Geneva University Hospital, Switzerland, evaluating if docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) or
eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) increases the efficacy of radiation therapy (RT) on two human colorectal cancer cell
lines. LS174T and HT-29 cells were treated with 20 or 50 μmol/L EPA or DHA followed by single X-ray RT. LS174T was
more sensitive to RT than HT-29. DHA and to a lesser extent EPA increased cell death, apoptosis and peroxide
production after RT in LS174T and to a lesser extent in HT-29. The effect of RT combination with DHA and to a lesser
extent EPA was synergistic in the radio-sensitive LS174T cells. [Clin Nutr. 2013 Apr 23. pii: S0261-5614(13)00105-2]