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DHA Discovery

DHA Discovery

No doubt you’ve heard of the healthy omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. It’s involved in the production of brain cells, is essential for healthy brain function and has many body-wide benefits. For example, DHA supports healthy cognitive function, eye health and a healthy mood. It also boosts immune function and even supports healthy joints by balancing inflammation levels in the body. DHA is found in foods such as salmon, albacore tuna and sea algae—sea “veggies”—including spirulina and chlorella.

Healthy inflammation levels in the body are highly important, too, as medical researchers are becoming more and more aware that chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and arthritis thrive when there’s excessive cellular inflammation. This over-the-top inflammation then creates an environment in which unhealthy genetic changes can occur. At the same time, the immune system can become ineffective, allowing these unhealthy instigators to run rampant, undetected and unchallenged.

One way in which the body can fuel chronic inflammation—making it more susceptible to unhealthy outcomes—is through a diet that doesn’t have a proper fatty acids balance—namely, too many omega-6 fatty acids and too few omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA.

And speaking of DHA. . . it has recently been determined that DHA plays a major role in fighting unhealthy, chronic inflammation in the body. In fact, a prominent journal featuring cutting-edge research has found that DHA reduces chronic inflammation, which, of course, underlies ill health ranging from joint problems to cardiovascular unhealth.

More specifically, a team of researchers discovered that macrophages, which are types of white blood cells, use DHA to produce what’s called maresins. Maresins serve as the “switch” that turns off unhealthy inflammation and switches on resolving the problem of chronic, unhealthy inflammation. In fact, these scientists found that macrophages, which function to gobble up “bad” invaders, use DHA to produce maresins, which, as mentioned, switch off rampant inflammation and prompt normal immune system responses.

The results of this study were published in The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal, which is one of the world’s most cited biology journals featuring the latest research reports and reviews—promoting scientific progress and education. Gerald Weissmann, M.D., the editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal, states, “We’ve known for a long time that DHA tames inflammation; now, we learn exactly how DHA works: via new substances called maresins. We encounter inflammation almost daily, but our body has ways of turning it off. This is an important step toward understanding exactly how this happens. You’re likely to be hearing a lot more about maresins, if, or when, new therapies arise from this discovery.”

Weissmann is not alone in projecting the widespread, impressive implications of this discovery. Charles N. Serhan, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work stemming from this research from Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, leading to this discovery, says, “We hope that the results from this study will enable investigators to test the relevance of the maresin pathway in human disease. Moreover, we hope to better understand resolution biology and its potential pharmacology so that we can enhance our ability to control unwanted inflammation and improve the quality of life.”

In short, this study is the first to provide evidence explaining how omega-3s, specifically DHA, work at the cellular level in harmony with the immune system to promote overall health by quelling systemic, chronic inflammation.  


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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