DHA is Vital to Cardiovascular Wellness
Monday, February 10, 2014
Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
Thousands of studies have shown the critical function of fish oil—in particular it’s most important essential fatty acid DHA—to overall cardiovascular well-being at any age. DHA is the most deficient nutrient in the 21st Century diet and good food sources of it, like fatty fish, are often contaminated with mercury or other toxins. Therefore, a dietary supplement containing toxin-free molecularly distilled DHA is invaluable for getting safe amounts of this vital heart-friendly nutrient. February is American Heart Month, so it is worth summarizing some of the key DHA findings of the past year as they relate to cardiovascular health.
It has recently become very clear that the commonly prescribed diabetes drugs Avandia and Actos damage the heart by activating a generally helpful gene signal, PPAR, at the wrong time in the wrong organ causing heart failure and heart attack. On the other hand, DHA activates the same metabolism-friendly gene signal without harming the heart. Indeed, DHA has been shown to specifically improve heart energy function1. Once again we learn the important lesson that nutrients present and vital for human evolution know how to activate the proper genes in the proper places – something the expensive new breed of biotech drugs have no clue how to manage.
In fact, DHA is really smart, in activating anti-inflammatory genes when excess inflammation is present. Since low grade inflammation is now recognized as a serious form of cardiovascular distress, this handy function supports your health. Even in serious situations, like a stroke, if you have adequate DHA on board it will limit the damage by activating highly protective compounds.
Of course, DHA is likely to help prevent a stroke in the first place. It does this in several ways. As a natural component of healthy cell membranes, it naturally incorporates itself into the cells of your arteries. When it does this, it has been found to stabilize existing plaque so that it is less likely to break off, form a clot, and cause a heart attack or stroke. It also helps to relax your arteries so that blood flows easier and blood pressure is not as high. High DHA intake has been shown to prevent thickening/hardening of the arteries.
DHA is important to take when you eat saturated fat, as it enables the saturated fat to flow freely2 in your circulation. This does not mean to eat excess fat. It just means that your body does best when DHA accompanies dietary saturated fat (which is an excellent energy source). DHA helps to lower triglycerides in your blood,3 which takes excess “fat blobs” out of your circulation so your heart can work easier without having to pump so much sludge around. DHA builds itself into your HDL and LDL cholesterol, actually improving the quality of these vital nutrient transport vehicles so they are more able to perform healthy functions instead of becoming part of the problem.
Children can benefit from 100 - 300 mg of DHA per day not only for healthy cardiovascular function but to help with cognitive function. Adults can take 250 - 500 mg of DHA per day for general health and 500 - 2000 mg per day for more significant protection. Please note that I am talking about milligrams of DHA specifically, not EPA or total fish oil milligrams (read labels carefully). I explain dosing and quality more fully in my article, Why High Quality DHA is So Important DHA should always be part of your cardiovascular support nutrition.
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