Did You Know How Important DHA Is to an Aging Brain? – InVite Health Podcast, Episode 484
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Did You Know How Important DHA is to an Aging Brain? – InViteⓇ Health Podcast, Episode 484
Hosted by Amanda Williams, MPH
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Amanda Williams, MPH: When it comes to fats in the brain, we know the importance of omega-3 fatty acids and I want to zero in today on DHA because when it comes to brain health, this particular fatty acid is so incredibly important. So when we think about our omega-3s, we know we have the EPA, we have DHA, we have ALA and the DHA in particular really has this profound effect on brain development, as well as maintaining our brain health as we age.†
So I’m Amanda Williams, MD, MPH and let’s talk about omega-3 fatty acids and in particular, understanding why there are different types of omega-3 fatty acids and why DHA in particular seems to have this really pronounced effect. And DHA is short for docosahexaenoic acid, so it’s a mouthful there, so it’s easier just to shorten it and say DHA. We know that this is essential for the proper development when it comes to the infant brain, but we also know that it plays this really vital role in the ongoing structure and function throughout our entire lives and throughout our adulthood. So when we look at how it is integral in terms of its function within the brain, this is where it is really quite interesting and I wanted to talk about this because we know, back in, I think it was 2002, is when many of the companies that manufacture infant formulas started to pump DHA into their infant formulas. It’s really quite interesting because, if you think about why that would be, well, we know that when it comes to breastfed babies, the DHA count would generally be sufficient. However, we also know that many women are not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids because of dietary shifts over the past many decades. People are following more of that Standard American Diet and the omega-3 content is just not high enough. They recognized this, so they started to put the DHA actually into the infant formulations and this is to help to enhance the growth and development of the brain.†
We know that fatty acids are very, very important. That’s a reason why they are considered to be essential. Now, when we look at how it is that they’re actually working, we can start to look at the volume of the brain. We can start to look at the functionality of the brain when it comes to cognitive function. There was a really interesting study that was done roughly about five years ago and it was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease where they looked at the effect of DHA supplementation on brain volume as well as cognitive function in people who were showing signs of mild cognitive impairment. Now, this was a 12-month randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial and they found that the group that they were giving DHA to over the course of this 12 months and they were looking at the functional MRIs, so being able to see how the brain itself was looking. They found that in this time span, that the DHA-supplemented group had a significant improvement in cognitive function and really slowed that progression of brain atrophy. I talk about this often when I think about omega-3 fatty acids. I always say you can be in the fat-brain line or the skinny-brain line and there’s a reason for that because we know that those omega-3 fatty acids really help to maintain the size of the brain and hence the function of the brain, so this is very important.†
We know that DHA plays this very integral role and for many people, they consider DHA as, in a sense, its own brain food. There are certain parts of the brain that have really high concentrations of DHA. We know that in the brain alone, DHA levels are always going to be higher than anywhere else throughout the body.†
Now, if we have low levels of omega-3 intake, which we know most Americans do have, then having supplementation of DHA is incredibly advantageous. So we look at the neuroprotective properties of consuming DHA, when we look at things such as dementia, we look at Alzheimer’s, understanding how that DHA really helps to support these synaptic membranes and the neurites or the neurons within the brain. It influences brain development as well as functionality, so we can go right from infancy, going all the way through our elderly years. We understand that DHA is helping to protect the brain itself from inflammation, cause remember, omega-3s are very targeted when it comes to easing inflammation.†
We also recognize that DHA helps to stimulate the different changes that occur that can impact our ability to learn new things and to create new memories. It comes down to the rapid signaling transduction that is actually occurring across membranes at that cellular level.†
We understand that DHA helps to promote healing to the brain and so there are a high amount of what are known as protectins that are contained within DHA. Protectins are nature’s way to actually create a balance between oxidative damage brought on by free radicals and oxidative stress and the brain’s ability to recover from this. So understanding that DHA is high in these protectins, this naturally-occurring protectin, this can really help to slow that progression of any type of neurodegeneration that occurs throughout the aging process itself. We can look at the science.†
We can see how taking in DHA does a really wonderful job when it comes to enhancing our cognition, as well as overall brain functionality, even when we think about things like focus and attention. Your omega-3 fatty acids really are quite integral to this whole process and if we do not have adequate amounts of DHA in terms of our dietary intake, then supplementation with a very clean form, algae-sources form of DHA, would be highly advantageous. That’s what you’re getting when you use our standalone DHA. You’re getting this high amount of very potent algae-derived DHA, so this very important healthy fats that the brain needs to regulate information, to optimize brain function, to support the way that the brain itself is aging. DHA is certainly essential and certainly critical when it comes to maintaining our brain health as we get older.†
So that is all that I have for you for today. I want to thank you so much for tuning into the InViteⓇ Health Podcast. Remember, you can find all of our episodes for free wherever you listen to podcasts or by visiting invitehealth.com/podcast. Now, do make sure that you subscribe and you leave us a review. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @invitehealth and we will see you next time for another episode of the InViteⓇ Health Podcast.†