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What is DHA fish oil?

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DHA stands for Docosahexaenoic acid and is one of the long chain Omega 3 fatty acids that are essential for life but which we cannot produce in our bodies and as such, we have to source them from our diets. Omega comes from Greek and is the last letter in the Greek alphabet. In Chemical structure, DHA is a fatty acid with a 22 carbon chain and six double bonds with the first double bond located at the third carbon from the end, hence the name Omega 3.

Sources of DHA

The only real source of DHA in any significant quantity is in oily fish or in fish oil extracted from oily fish so unless we eat a lot of fish, which is not recommended due to the amount of toxins they can contain such as mercury, PCBs, Dioxin and Chlordane, or take fish oil regularly, we are not going to be able to get very much of it in our diets.

Why DHA is important

DHA is found in sperm, the retina and the brain and as it is necessary for healthy brain structure and development it is particularly important during pregnancy or in the first few years of life when the brain and the eyes are developing rapidly. As a baby in the womb will source all its DHA from the mother, it is so important that the mother has enough in her diet to cater for this demand. It is disturbing that many research studies have revealed that there is a direct correlation between lower intake of Omega 3 and postpartum depression.

DHA versus EPA

Many fish oils on the market contain both DHA and another important Omega 3 fatty acid known as Eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA. EPA is also a long chain Omega 3 fatty acid but this time with a 20 carbon chain and five double bonds with the first double bond located at the third carbon from the end.

There has been a long standing debate as to whether DHA or EPA is more important. Many leading researchers, particularly in the UK, now believe that EPA is the single most important fatty acid for optimal brain function on a daily basis and for nerve stimulation. The truth is we need both DHA and EPA however, if we get enough EPA in our diets we can convert it into DHA as required.

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