You surely must have observed your grandparents, parents forgetting little things now and then as they move towards the old age in their life. It is very common for you too to forget some important or unimportant things from time to time.
Well losing memory as you age is natural. But at the same time, upgrading your memory or enhancing your memory skills is also essential so eating DHA rich food.
But what should you do to improvise on the process of your brain development and enhance your memory skills? Well don’t worry….Read on further and you will find your answer.
Did you know that there are some essential fatty-acids which are very important for the development of your brain at all stages of life? One of these essential fatty-acid is Docosahexaenoic acid which is critical for brain development. Docosahexaenoic acid is safe, natural and clinically proven to help you protect against normal cognitive decline as you age.
Let us see in details what exactly this DHA is and why and how it is important……
Docosahexaenoic Acid – The Building Block of Life
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid which is a primary structural component of the brain, retina, skin, sperm and testicles. It is an important building block of almost every cell in the body and DHA for brain development as well is necessary.
DHA can be synthesized by the body from dietary alpha-linolenic acid but with an efficiency of only a few percent. It can also be obtained from breast milk or fish oil.
DHA is essential for healthy heart and brain development, from infants to adults. It is necessary for infants during the first 6 months of their lives for proper development of their brain, nervous system and eyes.
In the later stage of one’s life, DHA is essential to maintain strong and healthy cell membranes that maintain their flexibility and can yield without breaking.
DHA And Central Nervous System
The most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in brain and retina is DHA. It comprises about 40% of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in brain and 60% of PUFAs in retina.
50% of the neuron’s plasma membrane weight is composed of DHA. It is supplied abundantly during breastfeeding and DHA levels are high in breast milk as compared to dietary choices. Deficiency of DHA is associated with cognitive (psychological functions) decline. Low levels of DHA may be linked with increase in neural cell death and cause several neural disorders. In severely depressed patients too you can observe reduced DHA levels.
DHA and Pregnancy: Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies
Nutrition before, during and after pregnancy plays a vital role in infant and fetal brain development. DHA during pregnancy supports the optimal development of infant brain, nervous system and eye.
DHA is particularly essential in the third trimester (28-40 weeks of pregnancy), when significant infant brain development occurs. Low intake of long chain PUFAs during pregnancy are associated with shorter gestation, lower birth weight and increased risk of pre-term delivery.
Hence, DHA supplementation or brain development food during pregnancy helps to lengthen gestation period (fetus development period) and also supports mental status of the mother.
Developing infants cannot efficiently synthesize their own DHA. So, they must obtain this essential nutrient through placenta during pregnancy and from breastfeeding after birth.
Breast milk naturally contains DHA which helps in brain development. So, to support the optimal health of developing infant, breastfeeding mother should consume a healthy diet that includes these essential nutrients. The primary source of DHA is a fatty fish.
The National Institute of Health and International Society suggested that pregnant and nursing women should intake 300mg/day of DHA.
DHA concentrations in breast milk range from 0.07% to greater than 1.0% of total fatty acids. DHA levels are higher in breast milk if a mother’s diet is high in fish.
One recent study determined that the low levels of plasma and erythrocyte DHA were associated with poor cognitive development, low visual acuity (not clear in vision) and poor retinal development.
A study by National Institute of Health suggests that DHA supplementation during pregnancy can give protection to the babies against getting common colds.
DHA For Your Little Darlings
Infant brain growth primarily occurs during pregnancy and throughout the first 2 years of life. During this time Docosahexaenoic acid and Arachidonic acid (AA) are essential nutrients for them for brain development.
Role of DHA in brain development as well in retina development in infants and early childhood.
Some studies suggested that optimum levels of DHA during pregnancy have shown improved psychomotor (function of muscles under the control of mind) development and improved mental processing scores at 4 years.
Certain studies concluded that infants fed formula supplemented with DHA and best food for brain development and AA may significantly lower blood pressure at age 6, which later may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
So, it is necessary that you should make your little one eat a healthy diet that contains DHA in adequate levels and do brain development exercises. For infants, breastfeeding is the preferred option to get DHA.
DHA And Wellness For Life
1. Cognitive Function
Some studies have proven that DHA is related with significant benefit to cognitive function in individuals over 50 years of age.
2. Mental Flexibility
A higher level of DHA in middle-aged adult is associated with better performance on tests conducted over mental flexibility, neurological disorders, nonverbal reasoning, working memory and vocabulary.
Research studies suggested that an adequate level of DHA helps in the decreased risk of frequent seizures (fits) in children with epilepsy (neurological disorder). But a study indicated that it was just a temporary treatment.
DHA supplementation helps in the improvement of behavior in “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder” ADHD (psychiatric disorder) patients. But evidence for these results is poor.
Preliminary study in mice, found that DHA helps to inhibit the growth of colon carcinoma cells more when compared to other omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. They also believed that DHA also helps to increase the efficacy of chemotherapy in prostate cancer cells.
The occurrence of depression is associated well with omega-3 fatty acids deficiency. Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid such as DHA may help reduce the development of unipolar depression.
A 5-year study on depressed patients suggested that increasing fish consumption have shown significant reduction in measures of depression and aggressive hostility.
8. Cholesterol Level
DHA supplementation helps to increase the HDL (good cholesterol) to LDL (bad cholesterol) ratio and decrease the total cholesterol/HDL ratio that shows a decreased risk of coronary artery disease.
Some studies suggested that adequate dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with a decreased risk of primary cardiac arrest (heart attack).
DHA supplementation on depression during pregnancy may show beneficial effects. Decline in the maternal DHA status is related to the compromised maternal selective attention which is a key component of cognition.
Docosahexaenoic acid may help prevent the age-related dementia forms such as Alzheimer’s disease and possibly vascular dementia (problems in the supply of blood to the brain).
After knowing well about the various benefits of DHA and brain development foods, you might be excited to include it in your regular diet right? But, if you are vegan, you need not worry about the source.
Because, DHA can also be obtained from vegetarian sources like microalgae oil. Several pharmaceutical industries extract DHA from microalgae oil and used in many dietary supplements.
How Vegetarian DHA Differs From Fish oil?
Vegetarians and vegans diet typically contain limited amount of DHA in their bodies. Therefore, supplemental DHA, available in algae-derived oil capsules is essential to increase the DHA levels.
DHA in algal oil is derived from microalgae which are grown in a controlled environment and free of contaminants that are commonly found in fish and fish products.
This process of derivation makes it an ideal ingredient for supplements and is free from contaminants such as mercury and other toxins in the ocean.
Studies have proven that algal oils are nutritionally equivalent to fish oils and can replace fish oils in dietary supplements.
So, friends make sure you include DHA in your diet either through fish oil or better the convenient option to take DHA supplements. Choice is yours!
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