For years, experts have recommended eating fish to get the benefits of long-chain omega-3s like DHA. Unfortunately, not everyone enjoys the taste of fish or has access to it. There are also concerns about mercury and contaminants like PCBs and dioxins in some fish. Most reputable brands of fish oil supplements are free of these harmful contaminants. It’s not surprising that omega-3 supplements containing DHA are growing in popularity since they’re a great way to add omega-3-rich fish oils into your diet
Why are omega-3s believed by some to be a critical part of a healthy diet? Research shows that DHA has anti-inflammatory activity that may offer health benefits. Inflammation plays a role in a number of diseases including heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disorders. Research also indicates that DHA may reduce the risk of mortality in people who have coronary artery disease. One of the supposed heart health benefits of DHA is that it may help to lower triglycerides, a type of fat that circulates in the blood stream. Triglycerides are linked with a greater risk for heart disease. It may also have a blood-thinning effect, reducing the tendency of platelets to clump together and form clots that could lead to a heart attack. Some studies also show that DHA may offer protection against age-related macular degeneration, one of the most common causes of visual loss in older people.
DHA plays important roles in brain and eye functions too. That’s why some physicians advise women who are pregnant to add enough DHA into their diet since it may aid their baby’s brain and visual system development. Higher levels of DHA in babies may be linked with a lower risk for behavioral problems, possible improved brain function and hand-eye coordination. DHA is believed by some to be important for adult brain function too. Some, studies have linked higher levels of DHA with a lower risk for depression but further research is needed to support these findings. A significant amount of fat in the brain consists of DHA and some research has found a possible link between fish consumption and a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and memory problems.
Because of its believed anti-inflammatory benefits, research is looking at whether omega-3s like DHA offer protection against some types of cancer or against autoimmune diseases. One autoimmune disease where DHA may have some benefits is psoriasis, an inflammatory skin condition that can be uncomfortable and disfiguring. However, the research is still not conclusive as to its positive effect on treatment and further long-term studies are needed.
Omega-3 supplements with DHA are usually well-tolerated, although some people experience gas or bloating when they first start using them. It’s important to consult with your doctor if you’re taking other medications, especially blood thinners, since omega-3 supplements can interact with them. Even vegetarians may benefit from DHA since there are now plant-based, fish-free DHA supplements available made from algae. There are also chewable DHA supplements for kids and supplements to be used during pregnancy.
As always, talk to your doctor and make sure you’re a good candidate for omega-3 supplements before using them.
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