DHA improves memory, lowers risk of mental decline, fights inflammation and supports the health of pregnant moms and children*

Better memory with DHA

Omega-3 DHA improved memory in women and men. In the study, 176 non-smokers, aged 18 to 45, with low DHA from diet, took a placebo or 1,160 mg of DHA per day. After six months, compared to placebo, memory improved in both men and women taking DHA. Women had the most improvement in remembering times, places, and emotions—brain functions known as episodic memory. Men were able to more quickly recall images and words, and to comprehend, reason, and act or react faster to this information—brain functions known as working memory.
Reference: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; May, 2013, Electronic Prepublication.


DHA lowers risk for mental decline

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and mental decline (dementia). Researchers conducting the Framingham Heart Study followed 899 men and women, median age 76, for 9.1 years after first measuring blood plasma levels of DHA to determine risk for AD and dementia. At the end of the study, there were 99 new cases of dementia, including 71 cases of AD, which is the most common type. Scientists adjusted for other factors including age, sex, education, genetic defect (Apolipoprotein E epsilon-4 Allele), and inflammation (homocysteine), and found that, compared to those with lower DHA levels, those with the highest DHA levels—the top 25% of the group—were 47% less likely to develop any type of dementia and were 39% less likely to develop AD. Doctors noted that those with the highest DHA levels consumed an average of 180 mg of DHA per day and ate an average of three servings of fish per week. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid typically found in fish, particularly fatty fish.
Reference: Archives of Biochemistry & Biophysics: April 15, 2007; Vol. 460, No. 2, 202-5.   


DHA fights inflammation including C-reactive protein

Doctors in this study compared the effects of the omega-3s EPA and DHA on inflammation and lipids in 154 men and women. Participants took 2,700 mg of EPA or DHA per day, or a placebo. After 10 weeks, those who had taken DHA saw a seven to eight percent decrease in inflammatory factors including C-reactive protein, compared to a one to two percent decrease for EPA. Those taking DHA also had a greater decrease in triglycerides compared to EPA, 13 vs. 12 percent, respectively, and HDL, the “good” cholesterol rose by 7.6 percent for DHA vs. less than one percent for EPA. Findings on LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, were better for EPA, but only in men, not in women. Doctors said the findings are scientifically important, and that new studies will begin to reveal which omega-3s are better for particular conditions or health concerns. 
Reference: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; June, 2016, 104:280-7.


DHA improves mental abilities in premature infant and adolescent girl health

Premature infant girls developed more brain power with an omega-3 and vitamin D strengthened adolescent girls’ muscles in two studies. Doctors in an omega-3 study explained that the brain and nervous system contain very high levels of the omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), but that premature infants do not get enough time in the womb to build up DHA levels. Researchers wanted to see if the current estimated DHA requirements would be enough to help premature infants develop normally by 18 months of age.

About 650 mothers of infants born before 33 weeks—an average of seven weeks early—took 900 mg of DHA per day or a placebo if they breastfed their babies, while mothers who bottle-fed gave their babies a high-DHA formula or standard formula. While there was no effect for boys, premature girls who got DHA had less than half the mild mental delay of girls in the placebo group and severe mental delay was 80 percent less. Doctors believe that premature boys may need more DHA for their brains to develop and concluded that the U.S. should triple its requirement for DHA in premature babies to reach the level in the study.
Reference: Journal of the American Medical Association; 2009, Vol. 301, No. 2, 175-82.


Omega-3s benefit eyesight, immune health and more in babies and children 

For pregnant women, taking omega-3s is more important than they might realize. Several new studies on omega-3s, pregnant moms, infants and young children, confirm the wide-ranging benefits of omega-3s from fish oil. 

In a 12-year study, 1,770 kids whose genes or family history increased the risk for type 1 diabetes began taking omega-3s at 1 year old. After six years, kids who had higher omega-3 levels in the blood were 55% less likely to have type 1 diabetes than kids with lower omega-3 levels. In another study of 135 moms, baby girls whose moms had taken 400 mg of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) per day while pregnant had better eyesight at 2 months old than girls whose moms had taken a placebo. Boys and girls whose moms had a good balance between omega-6s and omega-3s had better vision than kids whose moms had higher omega-6 levels than omega-3. Doctors believe that the Western diet, which does not include enough fish, provides too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 essential fats.

Kids whose moms ate a cereal bar with 300 mg of DHA per day—29 moms starting at 24 weeks pregnant—solved problems better at 9 months old than kids whose moms had eaten a cereal bar without DHA. Doctors measured the amount of DHA in the umbilical cord blood of over 300 newborns, then seven years later tested how well the children moved and controlled muscles. They found that kids born with higher DHA levels performed better than kids born with lower DHA levels.

Kids—64 of them—who took infant formula with fish oil for three months beginning at 9 months old had more mature immune systems than kids who had taken cow’s milk or infant formula without fish oil. Mothers—495 of them who had premature babies in the past—were less likely to do so again after taking 2.7 grams of omega-3s per day, starting at 20 weeks pregnant.
Reference: Journal of the American Medical Association: 2007, Vol. 298, No. 12, 1420-8.


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