DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid that is most commonly found in fish oil. There are many cardiovascular benefits to supplementing fatty acids using fish oils, and DHA can lower cholesterol. However, because DHA is most commonly associated with fish oils, it is considered difficult for vegans to get enough DHA in their diets. This article will question whether a vegan DHA supplement is necessary or not.
While it’s not important to consume as much omega-3 as possible, it is important to consume a relatively high amount of omega-3 in comparison to omega-6. This is because the same enzyme processes the two, and having too much omega-6 will mean that omega-3 isn’t absorbed into your body as much. Unfortunately, omega-6 is plentiful in plant-based foods, so vegans can easily access it. It is possible that some vegans can fully satisfy their DHA needs purely by consuming sufficient amounts of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), as the body can convert ALA into DHA. However, the only way to guarantee that you are consuming the necessary amounts of DHA is to use a vegan DHA supplement. As the body can convert ALA into DHA, it is possible to naturally consume enough DHA. Adding things like chia seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts to your diet, and using vegetable oil when cooking gives you a chance of consuming the right amounts of omega-3.
A benefit of taking a vegan DHA supplement is that they are made with algae, which is lower on the food chain than fish. This means that omega-3 from algae is naturally less contaminated than omega-3 from fish oils. Additionally, they are sold in triglyceride form, meaning that they can be better absorbed than fish oil supplements (which are sold in ethyl ester form). However, algae is more expensive, and they do not contain omega-7 like some fish oils do.
There are several warning signs that you may have an omega-3/DHA deficiency, including:
- Inflammation and arthritis – omega-3 is proved to be anti-inflammatory, and a 2006 study found that 60% of people who began taking supplements had an overall improvement in joint pain.
- Trouble learning – omega-3 contributes to normal functioning of neurons in the brain, meaning that low levels inhibit their functioning and can lead to struggles when trying to learn and retain information.
- Fatigue – low levels of fatty acids impact on chronic fatigue syndrome, and fatigue is a physiological effect of not consuming enough omega-3.
- Weight gain – omega-3 increases metabolic activity, so without it your metabolism slows down and it is easier to gain weight.
- Depression – consuming a healthy level of omega-3 leads to lower levels of depression, which may be because it normalises neural activity in the brain, as well as omega-3 being a necessary component of serotonin, a neurotransmitter which is low in people with depression.
If you suspect that your DHA levels may be low, it is worth considering an omega-3 blood test and/or taking a vegan DHA supplement. An omega-3 test is simply like a blood test, where your doctor will send your blood to be tested, and this test measures how much EPA and DHA are present in your red blood cells. Vegan supplements are a great way to stay healthy on a vegan diet, especially if you are worried about having a deficiency. Vegan Supplement Store’s range is ideal if you want to remain healthy while staying vegan.