Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA for short, is a polyunsaturated fatty acid and thus belongs to the so-called omega-3 fatty acids. These are mainly found in oily fish and play an important role in various metabolic functions in our body. Why we should take DHA from outside, what our body does with it and in which foods docosahexaenoic acid is mainly contained, you can find out here.
What does our body need docosahexaenoic acid for?
DHA is an important component of the membranes of nerve cells. Most of it is found in the brain and retina. Almost 97% of the omega-3 fatty acids in the brain are DHA. They therefore play a decisive role in the structure and function of the human brain.
It is therefore not surprising that the mammary gland synthesises DHA. In contrast to cow’s milk, it is found in human breast milk. The baby needs docosahexaenoic acid especially in the first years of life to build up the relatively large human brain. Pregnant women are therefore advised to take in at least 200 mg of DHA per day to positively support their baby’s brain development. Docosahexaenoic acid is also an important building block for the formation of other important substances.
Does docosahexaenoic acid count as an essential fatty acid?
Essential fatty acids are fatty acids that must be supplied to the body with food. It cannot produce them itself from other substances. As important as DHA is for the body; strictly speaking, docosahexaenoic acid is not an essential fatty acid because the body can synthesise it from another omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid. Since this conversion only works very inefficiently, DHA that has already been completely formed should nevertheless be supplied to the body from the outside.
In which foods is docosahexaenoic acid found?
DHA is produced by marine microalgae. The most important sources for humans are therefore fatty sea fish such as salmon, as these feed on the algae and thus absorb and store the DHA that is formed.