Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an Ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid
with 22 carbons and six double bonds, the first double bond is located at the third carbon from the omega end. DHA trivial name is cervonic acid.
Docosahexaenoic acid is most often found in fish oil. Most of the Docosahexaenoic acid in fish and other more complex organisms originates in various
photosynthetic and heterotrophic microalgae, and concentrates in organisms as it moves up the food chain. Docosahexaenoic acid is also commercially
manufactured from microalgae; Crypthecodinium cohnii and another of the genus Schizochytrium. Most animals make very little Docosahexaenoic acid
through metabolism; however small amounts are manufactured internally through the consumption of
, an Ω-3 fatty acid found in
chia, flax, and many other seeds and nuts. There are also vegetarian sources of Docosahexaenoic acid, which come from seaweed.
Docosahexaenoic acid is essential for the proper functioning of our brains as adults, and for the development of our nervous system and visual
abilities during the first 6 months of life. In addition, Ω-3 fatty acids are part of a healthy diet that helps lower risk of heart disease.
Our bodies naturally produce small amounts of Docosahexaenoic acid, but we must get the amounts we need from our diet or from supplements. Most people
in the Western world do not get enough Ω-3 fatty acids in their diet.
Docosahexaenoic acid plays a crucial role in the growth and development of the central nervous system as well as visual functioning in infants.
Several small studies indicate that fish may help reduce symptoms and inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. However, it does not stop the
progression of the disease.
Researchers at the University of Nevada conducted a study on the effects of Docosahexaenoic acid supplementation on the growth of human colon
adenocarcinoma in mice. The animals received one of four specialized diets: low-fat with corn oil (Ω-6 linoleic acid), high-fat with corn oil
(Ω-6 linoleic acid), high-fat with fish oil (Ω-3 EPA and DHA), and high-fat with algae-derived DHA (Ω-3 DHA). At completion, the
mice receiving a diet supplemented with algae-derived DHA had tumors that were smaller than those of mice receiving diets supplemented with Ω-3
from fish oil as well as those fed both the high- and low-fat corn oil (Ω-6) diets. These results indicate that algae-derived DHA possesses
greater tumor-suppressing properties than do corn or fish oil.
Docosahexaenoic acid is actively promoted by manufacturers as a food additive. Until recently, sales other than to makers of infant formula have been
minimal; however, recently, several DHA-fortified dairy items like milk and yogurt began selling in grocery stores.
There is less Docosahexaenoic acid available in the average diet than formerly, due to cattle being taken off grass and fed grain before butchering;
likewise, there is less in eggs due to factory farming. Docosahexaenoic acid is widely believed to be helpful to people with a history of heart
disease, for premature infants, and to support healthy brain development especially in young children. Some manufactured Docosahexaenoic acid is a
vegetarian product extracted from algae. Both types are odorless and tasteless after processing.