Many people take their eyes for granted, and sadly, it can take experiencing issues like deterioration of vision or suffering from dry eyes to really begin to think about your eye health.
What's more, many people simply accept an opticians prescription rather than looking at ways to improve eye health.
One naturally occurring fatty acid can help enhance your eye health - DHA.
DHA is one type of Omega-3 essential fatty acid. As the name suggests, there are three omega-3 fatty acids; alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
DHA, in particular, is beneficial for many aspects of health. In this post, we explore the many benefits of DHA for eye health.
DHA & Its Benefits for Eye Health
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid found in high concentrations in the retina and is essential for normal retinal function.
DHA is also vital for a developing a baby’s eyes during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Some studies suggest that DHA may help protect against age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss in older adults.
A 2018 study that ran for 3 months with 518 volunteers aged around 40 years living in northern India discovered that daily supplementation with 1,000 mg Omega-3s (650 mg EPA plus 350 mg DHA) reduced symptoms of dry eye disease compared with placebo.
Eye health supplements often contain DHA as an active ingredient. The good news for pregnant and breastfeeding women is that supplementing with DHA is one of the most effective approaches if they want to improve their chances of having a baby with better eyesight.
One study published by Baylor College of Medicine in the US found children whose mothers took DHA at the same time as breastfeeding did better on eye-to-hand (psychomotor) tests at 4 months compared to mothers that didn’t consume the supplement.
Why You Should Increase Your Intake of DHA
DHA is a fatty acid found in high concentrations in the brain and eyes. It plays an essential role in fetal development, and a deficiency of DHA can lead to problems with vision and learning.
Maternal DHA supply contributes to the child’s visual development. Adults need DHA for eye health, cognitive function, heart health, and joint health. It’s a vital nutrient to consume, as you can only get it from food or supplementation.
There are many reasons you may want to increase your intake of DHA. Your brain is nearly 60% fat, and the retina also contains up to 60% DHA in its protective membranes.
Pregnant women and mothers who are nursing need plenty of DHA to ensure that their children have healthy brains and eyes.
Adults also need DHA for cognitive function. DHA helps keep the brain healthy and functioning correctly. It also helps improve memory and learning ability, making DHA the best supplement for boosting eye health.
EPA or DHA For Eye Health - Which Is Better?
Both EPA and DHA are essential for eye health, but they play different roles.
EPA is beneficial for the retina. EPA is the fatty acid that controls inflammation. The retina, which contains many omega-3 fatty acids, depends on EPA for optimal function.
People with low levels of EPA are more likely to have eye problems such as macular degeneration and vision loss. For this reason, it’s essential to make sure you consume enough EPA daily.
DHA supplementation is most beneficial for the macula, which is located in the central area of the retina and allows us to see fine detail and different shades of colour. The central retina also contains a high number of DHA receptors, so it’s significantly affected by a lack of DHA.
When comparing those with age-related macular degeneration to healthy controls, the former have lower levels of DHA in their blood. This means that it’s especially important for people with or at high risk of age-related macular degeneration to get enough DHA.
Learn more: Easy Eye Exercises That Strengthen Your Vision
What Does Science Say About DHA & Vision?
Your brain and eyes are primarily made up of fatty acids. A whopping 93% of your eyes and 97% of your brain’s omega-3 fatty acid content is DHA.
One 2012 study published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science found that DHA could prevent age-related vision loss in mouse models.
Also, your neurons need DHA for maintenance and repair, making it THE most essential fatty acid to promote healthy vision.
In the Handbook of Nutrition, Diet and the Eye, authors Ryszard Lauterbach, and Dorota Pawlik explain how premature or very low birth weight babies are generally deficient in DHA. This can result in problems in vision.
However, taking fish-oil supplementation offered a promising method for reducing the risk of vision impairment in developing infants.
With the new understanding of epigenetics (the science of how our genes continually evolve), this evidence helps us see that this approach will also help later on in life.
DHA Supplement Possible Side Effects
Three potential side effects of DHA supplements are:
Pregnant women should speak with their doctor or healthcare provider before taking DHA supplements to ensure that they get the correct dose for their individual needs.
The Bottom Line
DHA is vital for your brain, eye, and heart health and can even result in weight loss! You might like to increase your intake of DHA to reap the benefits. The best way to do this is by eating more seafood or taking supplements – if you’re vegan or vegetarian, there are still alternatives available.
Your diet will always be a priority when it comes to how healthy you feel inside and out, so make sure that you’re taking good care of yourself.
Written by best-selling author and integrative nutrition health coach Rowanna Watson, who has a passion for natural health. Rowanna is an expert in all areas of holistic health, plant-based nutrition, detoxification and personal development.
Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.