It’s easy to understand the importance of DHA when one realizes that the human brain and nervous system are made up of approximately 60% fat; of this, DHA is the primary type of fat.
DHA is an omega-3 essential fatty acid (EFA), a type of fat that is considered “essential” because the body cannot manufacture it; it must, therefore, be obtained from the diet. Essential fatty acids include DHA, another important omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentanoic acid (EPA), and the omega-6 fatty acids. They are found in all cell membranes throughout the body.
In the fetus and in young infants, docosahexanoic acid (DHA) is vital for the proper development of the brain, nervous system, and retina of the eye. It remains vital for the ongoing health of these organs, lifelong.
DHA is integral to the composition of the myelin sheath, the thick, fatty layer that insulates and protects nerves. DHA keeps the myelin sheath flexible and allows charged ions to be exchanged along the membrane, which facilitates electrical conduction. This ensures continuous, uninterrupted relay of information throughout the nervous system, our body’s “electric highway.”
Essential fatty acids are integrated into every cell membrane throughout the body and are used to produce hormone-like substances that regulate a wide range of functions, including blood pressure, blood clotting, blood lipid levels, the immune response, and the inflammation response to injury and infection.
When the human body is deficient in healthy fatty acids, it uses replacement acids such as saturated and trans-fatty acids instead, which are associated with many health ailments.