Algal DHA is an omega 3 fatty acid that exhibits nootropic benefits for a healthy brain. DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) is a main component in our skin, retinas, brain and cerebral cortex. It’s found in breast milk, fish oil, and algae oil. Our brains function well with higher levels of DHA and some EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
Three primary forms of omega 3 exist as ALA, DHA and EPA. ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid) is found in grass fed beef, seeds and some nuts. EPA is important for reducing cellular inflammation.
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Algal DHA is similar to fish oil benefits, but is the original source of where cold water fish receive their source of omega 3 fatty acids, and subsequently has even greater omega 3 benefits. It's a more potent and richer source of omega 3, plus it's environmentally sustainable. Telling everyone to eat more salmon for high omega 3 content for better brain health just isn't. Supplementing with algal DHA becomes an even more attractive option. As a rich source of omega 3 and omega 6 in an optimal ratio algae is considered one of the ultimate superfoods and makes our list of the Top 15 Superfoods You Need to Know About.
In a study by PURE, researchers found that higher carbohydrate intake was associated with increased risk of total mortality. Even more validating is the evidence for intake of total fat and each type of fat being associated with lower risk of total mortality. Specifically monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and saturated fat were all correlated with a lower risk of total mortality. With higher saturated fat intake associated with a lower risk of stroke. Now, of course these are not direct cause and effect relationships, but none the less the evidence is strong.
This latest research displays a strong correlation between high carb intake and higher mortality rates, now is the time to adopt a new outlook on what you eat and how you eat as it pertains to macronutrients. PURE (The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology) study assessed individuals aged 35-70 from 18 different countries over the course of 10 years from January 1st 2003 to March 31st 2013.
They used validated food frequency questionnaires to assess 135,335 people, a very large cohort. They looked at the consumption of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Primary outcomes were total mortality and major cardiovascular events including; fatal cardiovascular disease, non-fatal myocardial infarction, stroke, and heart failure. The results are frankly what we've been trying to educate the general public on for years.[A].
ALGAL DHA BENEFITS
- Improve Cognitive Function
- Decrease Inflammation
- Reduce High Blood Pressure
- Lower Cholesterol
- Non GMO
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Improve Cognitive Function With Algal DHA Supplementation
DHA is a nootropic that science supports. The Journal of Nutrition studied the effects of DHA on community volunteers aged 35-54 years old with no neuropsychiatric disorders. The authors found that a higher percentage of DHA lead to improved performance across 5 dimensions of cognitive functioning. Participants’ working memory, non verbal reasoning, mental flexibility and vocabulary all improved.
Even more telling is the strong correlation between DHA, working memory and vocabulary as these parameters continued to show linear gain even after prior education and vocabulary were accounted for. The implication for DHA is that it’s a major component of brain health throughout our lifespan .
Studies show that the majority of neurological benefit resides in DHA and not EPA. Why is EPA so commonly used? Well, it’s cheaper to manufacture and isn’t as fishy tasting. One thing is clear. DHA is critical for healthy brain structure and function.
High levels of DHA are found in more metabolically active areas of the brain. In a study of older adults aged 65-94 y/o, participants who later developed Alzheimer’s consumed less omega 3 foods. Stated another way, those who ate fish once per week were 60% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Intake of DHA specifically was also associated with decreased risk of Alzheimer’s .
It’s important to note here that cold water fish get their DHA and EPA from algae. That is why they have high contents of omega 3 fatty acids, because their diet consists of mostly algae that is high in DHA and EPA. We are consuming secondary omega 3. Why not get it directly from the source? Not only is this far more environmentally sustainable but it’s also vegan friendly and keto friendly.
Algal DHA and DHA received from cold water fish have been proven to be bioequivalent . This is great news for all my vegan and vegetarian friends out there that had qualms over fish sourced omega 3s. Sourcing DHA from algae is also far more sustainable than obtaining DHA from fish.
In breast milk, DHA is responsible for neurological development and optimal memory function. In older adults it helps to maintain our cognitive function, specifically pertaining to learning and memory.
Decrease Inflammation With the Nootropic Algal DHA
Algal DHA has very strong anti-inflammatory properties. Adding it to your diet curbs unwanted inflammatory responses that can lead to long term illness and disease. The following is a quote from The National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease.
“While today’s modern diet may provide beneficial protection from micro- and macronutrient deficiencies, our overabundance of calories and the macronutrients that compose our diet may all lead to increased inflammation, reduced control of infection, increased rates of cancer, and increased risk for allergic and autoinflammatory disease .”
Inflammation gets thrown out a lot when it comes to physical and physiological health. What is it exactly? How is inflammation a result of physical trauma, but also caused by what you might eat?
The reason being is that our white blood cells, which protect us from injury, pathogens, damaged cells, and irritants; kick off a cascade of events that ultimately produce cellular byproducts.
These byproducts are made up of a fluid like substance. There is more than WBCs involved but for simplicity, i’ll leave it at that. This is our body’s best attempt at repairing tissue. It’s our body’s natural immune response. It also helps to fight off bacteria and viruses and helps to repair damaged tissue.
When you bang your knee on the coffee table, an inflammatory response takes place. You may not always experience the pain and swelling but the bigger the problem, the bigger the response, typically. The smaller the problem, the smaller the response, but only in scope.
Small can be as significant as big. Just because you don't necessarily feel digestive irritants, doesn't mean that the underlying problem isn’t a significant one.
Gastrointestinal (from top to bottom), cardiac, pulmonary, lymphatic, and hepatic inflammation can wreak havoc on our bodies and is responsible for most of the diseases we face today: high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, asthma, IBS, IBD and the list goes on.
Eating healthy, and giving your body the nutrients it needs goes a long way in helping to reduce chronic inflammation. Let me be clear, the inflammatory response is a normal response. It must happen if we are to repair anywhere in our bodies.
The issue becomes chronic when it is a prolonged inflammatory state over time. This is when it is no longer normal. This is when we begin to see tissue breakdown and abnormalities at the cellular level which eventually manifest into disease or cancers.
Going back to our banged knee example. When you hit your knee you feel the pain and you see the swelling. By the very nature of the event you will rest that knee until it heals. In the very least you will not do anything to aggravate it further; otherwise your body will let you know to stop.
Your body is also trying to let you know when you aren’t eating right. Those lethargic feelings, easily fatiguing, low energy, poor memory and focus, inability to concentrate, and a host of physical inadequacies.
These are the signs that tell us something's not right. Walking up 20 stairs and being a little out of breath is normal. The activity is physically demanding. Walking up a flight of 5 stairs and feeling pain in your chest or a general uneasiness, is abnormal. Not being able to remember how to solve that calculus problem from 10 years ago is normal. Not being able to recall what you were just talking about doing next is abnormal.
Additional whole food sourced nutrients with strong anti-inflammatory properties include spirulina, wheatgrass and EGCG found in green tea. Stacking these nutrients with alpha lipoic acid contributes further to reducing inflammation.
Reduce High Blood Pressure By Ingesting Algal DHA
Omega 3 fatty acids help reduce high cholesterol and high blood pressure diminishing the risk of heart disease. Findings indicate that supplementing a diet with omega 3 lowers blood pressure in hypertensive patients. Additionally, omega 3 intake has an inverse relationship with blood pressure . The more omega 3 consumed, the lower the respected blood pressure.
Further research is needed to determine the overall effectiveness of specific omega 3 fatty acids at slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s but current studies do show promising results.
STACKING WITH ALGAL DHA
ARA (Arachidonic Acid) is an omega 6 fatty acid responsible for the growth and repair of skeletal muscle during exercise and is therefore an important recovery component of physical training . Be careful, you do not want too much omega 6 as it can be inflammatory.
It’s not only for bodybuilders but truly anyone who has some degree of physicality throughout their day. It is also found in abundance in the brain along with DHA, making up 20% of the fatty acid content. It also protects the brain from oxidative stress by activating a protein involved with growth and repair of neurons . So ARA shows benefits as a nootropic in its own right.
ALGAL DHA PROFESSIONAL RECOMMENDATION
There is no standard daily dose of omega 3 that has been set. A diet consisting of 500mg of omega 3 taken daily has shown efficacy for improving health. Keep in mind that omega 3 fatty acids consist of 3 primary forms, ALA, DHA, and EPA. DHA is the more potent anti-inflammatory and promoter of brain health constituting greater than 50% of the omega 3 content. This is also why DHA is touted as the better omega 3 nootropic for optimal cognitive function.
ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid) is a plant based omega 3. ALA can be converted into DHA and EPA in your body with specific enzymes. However many people lack these enzymes and the conversion ratio is very low. Meaning you would need a ton of ALA, and even then might not reach the therapeutic level. Alpha Linolenic Acid should not be confused with Alpha Lipoic Acid. Read on here for more on Alpha Lipoic Acid.
EPA plays a much smaller role and unfortunately typically makes up the bulk of cheaper products. EPA is more cost effective so it is used more. So if you’re taking a supplement that only lists omega 3 and not specific content of which omega 3s, you’re likely not getting the anti-inflammatory and brain benefits you desire.
Some sites recommend 1000 mg/day of DHA. This is likely not necessary. 200-400 mg is more than enough for the average adult. Again this would be pure DHA, and not a mixture making up the total omega 3 content. Some organizations recommend 250-500mg of EPA and DHA total.
The AHA (American Heart Association) recommends 1000mg of EPA and DHA for people with heart disease and those with high triglycerides may need 2000-3000mg.
Pregnant and lactating women should consume at least 500mg of DHA daily. DHA has been a hot topic as of late in infant formulas. So what’s the deal here? Is it good or bad? The reason DHA and ARA are catching a bad wrap is that large companies are genetically modifying and synthetically producing these substances for organic product lines.
No Hexane Found in Algal DHA
The USDA approved these measures only if these companies ensured hexane would not be used in the process. Hexane is a hazardous air pollutant. So expecting mothers are a bit outraged as they should be.
If you’re expecting a product to be of a high standard and then you find out the board (National Organic Standards) responsible for ensuring such quality control is being influenced by big business, it’s reasonable to be discouraged.
When sourced appropriately DHA is a safe and highly effective nutrient. Be thoughtful when something is labeled as good or bad. Take the time to do a little research and find out why.
Nasa Founded The Nootropic Algal DHA
Just in case all the big brain benefits aren’t enough for you to get on board. Here is a tidbit you may find intriguing. NASA is responsible for kicking off the research that lead to the development of algal based DHA and ARA (arachidonic acid).
Nasa discovered the rich nutrients in marine algae for use on long duration space flights! If it’s good for NASA astronauts up in space, it's likely beneficial for those of us here on earth.
Anecdote On Digestive Health
We have all gotten so used to ignoring the obvious signs of our bodies. We find excuses. People will completely ignore moderate lactose intolerance with the misconception that they are just naturally prone to an upset stomach or gas. They may not realize that an upset stomach and additional gassiness are signs of internal inflammatory processes. If they decide to adjust their diet and give up on certain dairy irritants, they find that their digestive properties and gas return to normal levels. Consuming dairy isn't necessarily bad for you. Not everyone is sensitive to dairy or lactose.
People will tolerate extra gas and indigestion for decades and might never make a change, but reducing inflammatory processes improves GI health. You're putting your body into a constant state of turmoil and your gut is chronically inflamed when you choose to ignore these signs of indigestion. Not to be crude, but the average person passes gas approximately 10 times per day. It’s normal. Twenty plus times per day is not normal. When you receive the proper nutrition the frequency is less and you find that your gas isn’t nearly as strong smelling either.
There are other gut irritants and enzymatic activity that can be beneficial or detrimental to GI health. Not everyone is lactose intolerant, but eating things your body doesn’t agree with will likely cause internal inflammation and damage. Just like smoking will likely inflame and damage your lungs.
One of the biggest fallacies is that a healthy life is one that avoids the negatives. “Well I’m not eating chocolate cake or sweets anymore.” Good, that can help if high blood sugar is problem for you. What about adding nootropic foods or supplements that benefit brain health? There seems to be a disconnect for so many out there that healthy eating is only about avoidance and not about seeking. I encourage all of my patients to seek out nutrition that will have a meaningful change whether for cognition, physical performance, or recovery.
I’m telling you to seek out the nutrient dense foods. This is how you satisfy real cravings, and provide your mind and body real energy. Find out what is in these foods and what constitutes brain health, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
If being healthy were only about avoidance, then theoretically you would never be able to get back to baseline. You would start at 0 and everything you ate that was bad would chip away leaving you somewhere in the negative without the possibility of returning to a healthier state.
The point being, if you can do damage with the negatives, you can benefit from the positives. It’s a sliding scale, a two way street. This is why eating right and giving your body the proper nutrition it needs to function optimally is so important.
You do your best to not bang your knee on the coffee table, why not do your best to keep all inflammation to a minimum and give yourself nutrition that will help keep you performing physically and mentally at a high level for as long as possible.
In the long run, you will help avoid chronic inflammation and stressors to your body and brain that could eventually manifest into very obvious signs that you cannot ignore, like disease. Algal DHA is one of these positives that will help you slide back up the health scale to become super you.
SIDE EFFECTS OF ALGAL DHA
Algal DHA is extremely safe, but further research is needed to develop a clear picture of any long term side effects. DHA symptoms are rare but it can cause nausea, intestinal gas, and loose stools in some people. This is why it is recommended in conjunction with a full profile of nutrition including fiber.
People on blood thinning medications like Warfarin should avoid consuming >3g per day as it could lead to excessive bleeding. It’s possibly unsafe but not definitive.If you have aspirin sensitivity, DHA might affect breathing. Those on blood pressure lowering medications should also avoid large quantities of DHA as it may further reduce your BP.
DHA could cause a blood sugar increase in people with type 2 diabetes. If you have type 2 diabetes and are considering supplementing with algal DHA, try combining DHA with other nutrients that help regulate blood sugar.
RECAP OF ALGAL DHA
Environmentally Friendly Sourcing DHA From Algae
Algal DHA is a natural omega 3 fatty acid that exhibits beneficial nootropic effects, typically thought of in cold water fish, but found in abundance in algae and in algal oil. Using plant sources of omega 3 fatty acids is far more sustainable than trying to source from fish.
The benefits from algal sourced DHA are the same benefits you would receive from omega 3 fish oil without the negative impact on the environment. Not consuming DHA from fish oils or from whole fish also cuts down on mercury content, dioxins, and other contaminants.
Improve Brain Health With Algal DHA
High levels of DHA are found in more metabolically active areas of the brain. So we know that uptake here is critical for overall brain health. It has been shown to help memory, learning ability, non verbal reasoning, vocabulary and mental flexibility.
Lower Cholesterol From Algal DHA Supplements
Algal DHA is a potent anti-inflammatory that provides our brains with cognitive restorative properties. It also helps cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
Algal DHA Essential For Prenatal Development
DHA is found in breast milk and is vital for brain development in newborns and critical for long term memory and learning in older adults. The only reason DHA has been removed from certain high profile brands is due to a problem with sourcing. If hexane is involved it becomes a problem. DHA itself is a very normal, and good for you substance. Supplementation of DHA over 24 weeks improved memory and learning ability in those with age related cognitive decline.
Where can I buy algal DHA supplements?
You can buy algal DHA in the supplement aisle of your favorite local health food store, otherwise you can purchase from online retailers like Amazon.
Looking for more than just another nootropic stack? Mind is a daily blend of nootropics containing; algal DHA, grass-fed beef collagen protein, organic greens, and additional healthy fats from MCTs, and phosphatidylserine that are perfect for on-the-go, lean lifestyles.