DHA is an essential nutrient required at each stage of life from infancy to geriatric. It doesn’t act as a treatment for particular conditions but is essential throughout lifespan as a preventive measure and complementary medicine.
DHA has been shown to play a part in maternal well-being. DHA increases the gestation period of pregnancy, thus increasing the chances of a healthier baby. DHA supplementation during pregnancy has also been shown to significantly improve cognition and problem-solving skills in children. Since fetuses cannot synthesize DHA on their own, they depend on DHA uptake from the placenta during pregnancy and breast milk during birth. DHA is needed for optimal infant brain and eye development. DHA also resulted in fewer food allergies and IgE-associated eczema. The recommendation for DHA consumption in pregnant women ranges from 300 mg/day to 600 mg/day by various experts. Neural integrity and function of the central nervous system can irreversibly be damaged due to DHA deficiency during pregnancy as well.
Babies accumulate DHA in the CNS up until about 18 months of age. DHA plays a substantial role in foetal and infant brain development, increasing IQ scores, lengthening attention spans, and enhancing foetal and infant eye development. In her book, 51 Secrets of Motherhood, maternity expert Rebecca Matthias, president of Mothers Work, Inc., acknowledges DHA as "the new wonder supplement that actually increases your baby's growth." All infants, whether preterm or full term, seem to require dietary DHA for retinal development and normal visual function. Studies with human infants suggest supplementation with DHA in formula or by boosting maternal levels enhances neuromotor development. Studies also suggest that DHA alone can improve the infant’s performance on mental developmental tests. Thus, it can be inferred that DHA is an essential nutrient for optimal neural maturation during infancy. DHA also improves visual acuity and reduces risks associated with cardiovascular diseases at later stages of life. DHA can also reduce symptoms of conditions like foetal alcohol syndrome and phenylketonuria.
Childhood and adolescence are phases of life where maximum brain DHA accumulation takes place via neuronal maturation, synaptogenesis, and grey matter expansion. DHA supplementation benefits brain development, better focus and concentration, improvement in psychomotor skills, optimum behavior patterns, visual health, and cognitive development. Studies have associated DHA supplementation with the improvement of verbal and nonverbal IQ, reasoning, impulsiveness, and memory. Studies also seem to support that combined supplementation of EPA, DHA and a few omega-6 fatty acids improves attention, learning and behavioral infirmities in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, dyspraxia, etc.
Studies have associated higher levels of DHA consumption by middle-aged adults with improved non-verbal reasoning, mental flexibility, and vocabulary. DHA supplementation in adults leads to the prevention of cardiovascular disorders, prevention of systemic/chronic inflammation, and maintenance of optimal neural health. Excessive alcohol consumption depletes DHA concentration from the membranes of neurons. This leads to secondary depression symptoms. DHA prevents sudden cardiac arrests and coronary heart disease. DHA prevents depletion in cognitive function induced by stress and long work hours. DHA also seems to reduce the risk of dementia. DHA reduces LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and increases HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), reducing the chances of cardiovascular disorders and benefiting cardiovascular health. DHA has also been shown in some studies to be beneficial for type 2 diabetes.
Age leads to many problems, bringing discomfort to the individual and the people around him/her. Cognitive skills decline, memory loss, depression-related symptoms, dementia, and can lead to conditions such as Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, DHA supplementation has been shown to benefit healthy aging. DHA seems to prevent cognitive impairment and also has a positive impact on mood. It has been shown to improve immediate and delayed recognition and memory. It also reduces the chances of macular degeneration, which leads to temporary to permanent loss of vision. Studies also show that regular DHA uptake throughout life, in combination with an adequate intake of calcium, prevents osteoporosis. DHA also seems to reduce symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Combining DHA with EPA shows enormous benefits for cardiovascular health. It significantly reduces the risk of heart-related death. It is a well-recognized nutrient for brain, heart, and visual health, as well as infant development. DHA doesn’t act as a treatment for particular conditions but is essential throughout the lifespan as a preventive measure and complementary medicine.