Vegans may need to take omega-3 (DHA) to protect brain function

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The human body can make most of the types of fats it needs from other fats or raw materials. That isn’t the case for omega-3 fatty acids (also called omega-3 fats and n-3 fats).

These are essential fats—the body can’t make them from scratch but must get them from food.

Foods high in Omega-3 include fish, vegetable oils, nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds, flaxseed oil, and leafy vegetables.

Omega-3 fats are a key family of polyunsaturated fats. There are three main omega-3s:

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) come mainly from fish, so they are sometimes called marine omega-3s.

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the most common omega-3 fatty acid in most Western diets, is found in vegetable oils and nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds and flaxseed oil, leafy vegetables, and some animal fat, especially in grass-fed animals.

The human body generally uses ALA for energy, and conversion into EPA and DHA is very limited.

DHA is the most abundant long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid in the brain.

It is essential for the growth and functional development of the brain in infants. DHA is also required for the maintenance of normal brain function in adults.

The inclusion of plentiful DHA in the diet improves learning ability, whereas deficiencies of DHA are associated with deficits in learning.

Recent human studies suggest that consumption of DHA is associated with a reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

For example, a recent study about the dietary intake and blood level DHA suggested a consistent reduction in risk for cognitive decline, AD, or other dementia for those in the upper quartiles or quintiles of omega-3 intake or levels.

Animal studies demonstrate that oral intake of DHA reduces Alzheimer-like brain pathology.

To be in this protected group based on epidemiology would require about 200 mg DHA daily intake.

Since vegans are people who do not eat any food derived from animals and who typically do not use other animal products, many may wonder if they need to take DHA supplements to protect their brain function.

Recent studies suggest that vegans need to consume an additional 2 grams of omega 3s per day or consume a supplement that contains 200-300 mg of DHA to achieve best brain health.

But always consult your doctor or dietitian before making changes to your diet and before adding nutrition supplements.

If you care about nutrition, please read studies that eating this fish regularly may prevent type 2 diabetes, and findings of food that can protect against recurrent heart disease.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies about common snack that may cause heart rhythm disease, high blood pressure, and results showing this vitamin may be a treatment for common blinding eye disease.

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