Performance Lab® Omega-3

DHA

David Tomen
Author:
David Tomen
12 minute read
DHA is an essential brain food that boosts neurotransmission, cognition, memory, learning, reduces brain inflammation, assists in the repair of and helps grow new brain cells.

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid. DHA is crucial for the healthy structure and function of your brain at all ages.

DHA impacts your brain’s signaling systems, neurotransmitters, memory, learning, focus and attention. It helps reduce and even repair cognitive decline.

The best algae-sourced DHA on the market today is Performance Lab® Omega-3 which contains 600 mg of DHA and 300 mg of EPA per dose.

The famous Framingham Heart Study followed-up with 899 men and women who were free of dementia. Subjects had a median age of 76 years. And were followed for 9.1 years for the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Results from the study showed 99 new cases of dementia including 71 of Alzheimer’s. The researchers concluded that those with the highest levels of DHA were “associated with a significant 47% reduction in the risk of developing all-cause dementia”.[i]

DHA helps:

  • BDNF. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is your brain’s growth hormone. DHA has the ability to turn on your brain’s BDNF.
  • Neuroplasticity. DHA helps your brain build new neural pathways. Critical for maintaining a healthy brain. And optimizing neural signaling and cognition.
  • Neuroprotection. DHA acts as an anti-inflammatory by reducing the enzyme COX-2. Inflammation is a key factor in both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. And in every other neurodegenerative disease.

Overview

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid. Your brain is made up of 60% fat. And much of that fat is DHA.

DHA
DHA

Your body does not make DHA on its own. So you must get it from food or a supplement. And if you are a vegan, you are at serious risk of a life-threatening DHA deficiency.

Foods that are rich in DHA include fish, fish oil, Krill and other crustaceans, and algae.

But fish do not make DHA. Fish and other marine predators get it from smaller fish and crustaceans that feed on algae. It’s algae that has the enzymes to produce DHA that we need to remain healthy.

The best algae-sourced DHA on the market today is Performance Lab® Omega-3 which contains 600 mg of DHA and 300 mg of EPA per dose.

DHA from eggs and some dairy products only supply about 20 mg of DHA per day.

DHA is essential for maintaining brain health, memory and learning functions. DHA reduces brain inflammation, stimulates new nerve cell growth, and assists in brain cell repair.

DHA is critical for brain health

How does DHA Work in the Brain?

Your brain is composed of 60% fat. 15 – 20% of your cerebral cortex is DHA. Even the retina in your eyes is 30 – 60% DHA. Making DHA the most essential nutrient for eye and brain health.

The highest levels of DHA are found in phosphatidylserine (PS) and phosphatidylethanolamine (PE).[ii] Lower levels are found in phosphatidylcholine (PC).

PS makes up about 70% of neuron tissue mass. It helps in the storage, release and activity of neurotransmitters and receptors.

PC also makes up part of the neuron tissue mass. And helps in maintaining cell structure, fat metabolism, neuron signaling and the activation of a number of enzymes.

And PE is part of neuron cell membranes. PE is involved in cellular signaling.

PS, PE and PC are called phospholipids. Together they alter the fluidity of cell membranes. Changing the fluidity of cell membranes alters their permeability and protein activity. And influences cellular signaling.

Made up largely of DHA, these cellular membranes regulate entry into the cell, and control neuroreceptor function. Which facilitates cellular communication between, and within cells.

DHA also reduces inflammation by regulating proteins and enzymes within cells. And boosts the production of anti-inflammatory compounds that protect cells.

DHA maintains the activity of certain enzymes that control electrical signaling between cells. And it regulates the brain cell concentration of PS which is vital for cell survival.

And DHA regulates calcium oscillations, which are involved in neurotransmitter release, mitochondrial function, gene activation, oxidative stress and brain cell development and growth (BDNF).

DHA vs. EPA: What’s the Difference?

Most medical authorities and scientists agree that Omega-3 oils are important for good health. Omega-3s boost brain function, decrease inflammation, reduce the incidence of fatal heart attacks and strokes, help autoimmune diseases and improve vision.

Omega-3 from fishWe have general agreement about the health benefits of Omega-3 oils. But few appreciate the difference between DHA (docosahexaeonic acid) and EPA (eico-sapentaenoic acid).

The ratio of DHA and EPA varies a lot in commercial Omega-3 supplements. Most have higher concentrations of EPA to DHA. Mainly because it’s cheaper to manufacture, and has less of a fishy odor.

But studies show that most of the brain health benefits of Omega-3’s are derived from DHA rather than EPA.

One study in Chicago followed 815 residents from 1993 – 2000. Study subjects were between 65 and 94 years. 131 study participants developed Alzheimer’s Disease. Those who ate fish at least once a week had a 60% less risk of Alzheimer’s compared to those who didn’t eat fish.

Researchers found that it was the intake of DHA rather than EPA that reduced the risk factor in getting Alzheimer’s. EPA made no difference whatsoever.[iii]

How Things Go Bad

From reviewing the “How does DHA Work in the Brain” section of this article, you can imagine that when things go bad with DHA – they go really bad.

Fish and marine oil supplements like krill oil are a source of DHA and EPA because they get it from algae. Plants contain another Omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

Technically ALA can be converted to DHA and EPA. But most modern humans lack the ability to convert plant sources of Omega-3s into all the DHA our brain needs.

When we don’t get enough DHA, we experience:

↓ Problems with attention, learning and memory

↑ Depression, anxiety, aggression, anger, suicide risk

↑ Bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s Disease and Schizophrenia

Not having adequate levels of DHA in the brain cause things to break down. If the inadequate intake of DHA goes on for a while, disease starts to set in. Including neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer.

DHA benefits

DHA makes up much of the gray matter in your brain. It’s an integral part of cell membranes and their function.

Your brain is 60% fat. And a large part of that is DHA.

The good news is; degenerative conditions can not only be prevented by adding DHA to your nootropic stack. It can also be reversed.

DHA for a healthy brain

In one study, researchers worked with 485 elderly subjects with memory problems. They saw significant improvement with those taking 900 mg of DHA per day for 24 weeks compared to the control group.[iv]

In another double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, scientists worked with 49 women aged 60 – 80 years. One group received 800 mg per day of DHA for 4 months.

Researchers found those using DHA had a significant improvement in verbal fluency scores. And an improvement in memory and learning.[v]

How does DHA feel?

Chances are when you start using DHA you won’t feel it. There’s no profound stimulant feeling.

But if you suffer from chronic depression, within a few weeks you should feel the depression lift.

After supplementing with DHA for a while your cognition will be better. You’ll think clearer and quicker. Your memory and ability to learn will improve. And you’ll likely have more energy and motivation.

But it is very likely you won’t think to attribute these improvements to adding DHA to your stack. Something else will get the credit.

DHA Clinical Research

DHA is crucial for an optimally functioning brain. The goal of every neurohacker. DHA impacts your brain’s structure, signaling systems, neurotransmitters, memory, learning, focus and attention.

We have decades of clinical research verifying the importance of DHA in your nootropic stack. And several books have been written on the subject in the last couple of years. Here’s just a snippet of what’s available…

DHA Reduces Hostility and Anger

In a study with 41 university students in Japan, scientists compared a high-DHA diet (1.5 grams/day) with placebo. This was recorded over 3 months to see the effects on hostile responses.

The researchers found a 27% incidence of hostile answers in the placebo group when nothing extraordinary was going on. And hostile responses rose to 92% during final exams.

There was no increase in hostility among those taking a DHA supplement. These guys even found DHA supplementation significantly reduced hostility among university staff.[vi]

DHA Restores Neurotransmitters & Memory

As your brain ages, there is an increase in membrane rigidity. This causes changes in synapses resulting in a decrease in transmitter release. Long-term potentiation is affected which impairs the development of memories.

Several studies have shown that DHA can support healthy levels of these neurotransmitters. In one study with aged rats, researchers restored neurotransmitter release in the hippocampus. And reversed age-related memory problems.

Adding omega-3 fatty acids to the rat’s feed for 8 weeks raised concentrations of DHA in the rat’s brain. And actually reversed age-related memory impairment.[vii]

DHA Improves Attention & Learning

DHA also has an effect on neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, acetylcholine, glutamate and dopamine. Deficiencies in DHA have been shown to lower levels of dopamine. Resulting in problems with attention and learning.[viii]

DHA even plays a role in neurotransmitter receptor function. DHA affects brain cell membrane structures including neuroreceptors.[ix]

Some of these receptors communicate inside cells when stimulated by glutamate, serotonin and acetylcholine.[x] The numbers of these receptors can be increased by you, by adding DHA to your nootropic stack.

So if you are using nootropics that affect things like acetylcholine, serotonin, dopamine and serotonin in your brain. It would be wise to add DHA to your nootropic stack. And ensure you get the most bang for your investment in nootropics.

DHA Recommended Dosage

Recommended daily dosage of DHA is 1,000 mg.

Fish oil supplements vary in ratios of DHA to EPA. Salmon naturally contain more DHA than EPA. A supplement from algae may contain only DHA.

Krill oil provides both DHA and EPA. So read the labels. And whatever supplement you get, make sure you end up with at least 1,000 mg of DHA.

And recall that fish and krill do not produce DHA on their own. Marine life get their DHA from algae in the wild.

Most brands of fish oil have been proven safe, and free of mercury. And do not contain unsafe levels of PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls).

To further avoid the contaminants in an unrefined supplement, choose a fish oil or Omega-3 supplement made from small, oily fish like anchovies, sardines or menhaden. And check the labels carefully for purity.

Ideally, get one of a few supplements now available that are pure, refined DHA. With lower or minimal amounts of EPA.

DHA Side Effects

Fish oil capsules commonly have both DHA and EPA. Capsules with EPA are not recommended for infants or small children. Because they upset the balance between DHA and EPA during early development. This also applies to pregnant women.

Fish oil could cause minor side effects like loose stools, upset stomach and belching.

Fish oil may lower blood pressure. So if you already take a medication to lower blood pressure, make sure you talk to your doctor first.

If you’re supplement contains EPA, it could interact with blood thinners and increase bleeding. Same is true for aspirin. But this is not true of DHA. DHA-only supplements do not thin the blood.

Fish oil supplements may lower blood sugar levels. So be careful if you’re on diabetes medications.

Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce some of the side effects of cyclosporine which is used to stop rejection after an organ transplant.

Type of DHA to Buy

Performance Lab® Omega-3 DHA is available as a supplement in two forms:

  • Fish oil or Omega-3 capsules. Which usually have both DHA and EPA. Most Omega-3 supplements contain higher amounts of EPA compared to DHA. But for our purposes, and to support cognitive health, we need an Omega-3 supplement containing higher amounts of DHA to EPA.
  • DHA from fish oil. Some supplement manufacturers now offer capsules containing higher amounts of pure, refined DHA. And reduced amounts of EPA. Our brains require 1,000 mg DHA per day. So look for a DHA supplement that provides 1,000 mg DHA in 2-3 gelcaps.
  • DHA from algae. Which may or may not contain EPA and is vegetarian friendly. Algae is the natural source of these Omega-3s in the wild and where fish and other marine life get their Omega-3s.

For as little as $49/month you can experience better cognition, memory and mood simply by using a daily DHA supplement. My favorite is Performance Lab® Omega-3 which contains 600 mg of DHA and 300 mg of EPA per dose.

Performance Lab® Omega-3 contains life’s™ OMEGA algae oil which supplies natural triglyceride Omega-3s that are 70% more bioavailable than synthetic ethyl esters used in cheaper and lower quality Omega-3 fish oil supplements.

Performance Lab® Omega-3 is delivered in NutriGels which are vegan, carrageenan-free softgels. No fishy smell or aftertaste and easy on your digestive system.

Try a bottle today: Performance Lab® Omega-3

Nootropics Expert Recommendation

DHA (Omega-3) 1,000 mg per day.

Nootropics Expert Tested and ApprovedI recommend using DHA as a nootropic supplement.

Your body does not make DHA on its own. So you must get it from food. Or take it as a supplement.

DHA is one of the most important nootropics you can add to your stack. Your brain is 60% fat. And much of that fat is DHA.

DHA is critical for brain cell repair and regeneration (neurogenesis). And it is an integral part of neural signaling. Both between neurons as well as inside brain cells.

DHA has an effect on critical neurotransmitters and neuroreceptors. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory. And is involved in neuroplasticity.

Hundreds of studies on Omega-3s and DHA show benefits in preventing and even reversing neurodegenerative disease.

It’s best if you find a supplement that contains twice as much DHA than EPA. Such as Performance Lab® Omega-3. And you can safely take 1,000 mg of DHA per day.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This post may also contain other affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

[i] Schaefer E.J. et. Al “ Plasma Phosphatidylcholine Docosahexaenoic Acid Content and Risk of Dementia and Alzheimer Disease” The Framingham Heart Study. Archives of Neurology 2006;63(11):1545-1550. (source)

[ii] Stillwell W., Shaikh S.R., Zerouga M., Siddiqui R., Wassall S.R. “Docosahexaenoic acid affects cell signaling by altering lipid rafts.”Reproduction, Nutrition and Development. 2005 Sep-Oct;45(5):559-79. (source)

[iii] Morris M.C., Evans D.A., Bienias J.L., Tangney C.C., Bennett D.A., Wilson R.S., Aggarwal N., Schneider J. “Consumption of fish and n-3 fatty acids and risk of incident Alzheimer disease.” Archives of Neurology. 2003 Jul;60(7):940-6. (source)

[iv] Yurko-Mauro K., McCarthy D., Rom D., Nelson E.B., Ryan A.S., Blackwell A., Salem N. Jr, Stedman M. “Beneficial effects of docosahexaenoic acid on cognition in age-related cognitive decline.”Alzheimer’s and Dementia. 2010 Nov;6(6):456-64. (source)

[v] Johnson E.J., McDonald K., Caldarella S.M., Chung H.Y., Troen A.M., Snodderly D.M. “Cognitive findings of an exploratory trial of docosahexaenoic acid and lutein supplementation in older women.”Nutritional Neuroscience. 2008 Apr;11(2):75-83. (source)

[vi] Hamazaki T., Sawazaki S., Itomura M., Nagao Y., Thienprasert A., Nagasawa T., Watanabe S. “The Effect of Docosahexaenoic Acid on Aggression in Young Adults” World Revue of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2001;88:47-52. (source)

[vii] McGahon B.M., Martin D.S., Horrobin D.F., Lynch M.A. “Age-related changes in synaptic function: analysis of the effect of dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids.” Neuroscience. 1999;94(1):305-14. (source)

[viii] Delion S., Chalon S., Guilloteau D., Besnard J.C., Durand G. “alpha-Linolenic acid dietary deficiency alters age-related changes of dopaminergic and serotoninergic neurotransmission in the rat frontal cortex.” Journal of Neurochemistry. 1996 Apr;66(4):1582-91. (source)

[ix] Litman B.J., Niu S.L., Polozova A., Mitchell D.C. “The role of docosahexaenoic acid containing phospholipids in modulating G protein-coupled signaling pathways: visual transduction.” Journal of Molecular Neuroscience 2001 Apr-Jun;16(2-3):237-42 (source)

[x] Mitchell D.C., Niu S.L., Litman B.J. “Enhancement of G protein-coupled signaling by DHA phospholipids” Lipids April 2003, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 437-443 (source)

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Join The Discussion - 212 comments

Francisco
March 12, 2023

Hi David.
Does the Ratio EPA:DHA Matters, or should we just be worried about getting into the 1000mg absolute value of DHA?
I am using Carlons finnest fish oil, and on my dose I am consuming 1000 of DHA and 1600 of EPA. Should I try to reduce the amount of EPA or It’s fine? I started taking it mainly for focus but I have noticed improvements in my mood, might be from the EPA content.

    David Tomen
    March 22, 2023

    Francisco, the key is 1,000 mg DHA for brain cell membrane health. But if you are getting good results from the one you are using keep on using it!

daniel
January 31, 2023

Hi david, i want 1000mg of DHA daily. Can i take just a normal cheap fish oil supplement and double dose it until i reach 1000mg ? The product im using right now contains 500mg DHA and 700EPA. So 1000mg DHA would also be 1400EPA daily.

Ofc i know its much better to buy quality stuff but the way my life is set up right now i cant afford that good stuff : )

    David Tomen
    January 31, 2023

    Daniel, yes you can increase your dose of the fish oil supplement you currently have to get the DHA you need. But I do not suggest doing this long-term because cheap fish oil supplements have been shown time and time again to be contaminated with high doses of heavy metals.

Jatin
January 12, 2023

Will DHA lead to hair loss as reported by some users?

    David Tomen
    January 13, 2023

    No

Sanna
January 8, 2023

Hello!

Could DHA raise cholesterol in some cases?

My lipid profile changed rapidly for the worse. I have always had high total cholesterol but good ratios. Have been taking DHA 500mg daily for 2 months.

Triglyserides from 0.52 –>1.16 (mmol/l), HDL from 3,27 –> 1,70 (mmol/l)

I can’t pinpoint any other significant changes otherwise. Eating shrimps has been known to affect my cholesterol in the past.

Max
November 25, 2022

It’s best nootropic and main nootropic. I’m using it each day 1000 mg DHA and 500 EPA. I guess it increases preferably EQ.

    David Tomen
    November 28, 2022

    Max, not sure what EQ stands for but 1,000 mg of DHA per day is the recommended adult dose. And once you take DHA as a supplement it helps produce EPA in your system. On top of the EPA you are getting in your DHA supplement.

George
August 2, 2022

I decided to up my DHA too 1000MG and it made me feel very anxious I made sure it was nothing else causing it too. I tested it a few times even at 500MG it made me a little on edge. I have decided to go back down to my normal 250MG once daily and I’m much better I don’t think the more is always better. at least in my case anyway

    David Tomen
    August 2, 2022

    George, you bring up a very important point about any of the supplements you’ll find on Nootropics Expert. The recommended adult dosage for each is based on clinical studies and anecdotal reports of what others say works.

    But these are suggested minimums and maximums. Each of us is different for a variety of reasons. The 1,000 mg of DHA is recommended in general. But it may not be right for you as you found through trial and error. Thank you for bringing this up because it is important.

John
June 16, 2022

I have run out of DHA and cant afford any for another 3 months at best, other bills in life sadly and performance lab isn’t cheap I’m not a fan of the fish oil ones but will going without it for that time period be that bad I do have some Now old fish oil ones but they expire in like a few months but as I said not a fan compeered to P-labs. can you used them it it goes past used by date they sitting in a dark closet

    David Tomen
    June 19, 2022

    John, it’ll last longer if kept in the fridge. But like any Omega-3 has a limited shelf life.

Marcie Webber
April 5, 2022

I found an article regarding DHA and EPA ratio 4:1 brain function.
2:1 EPA/DHA geared towards inflammation overall.

My next question is:
How long do you take DHA 1000mg daily to optimize the brain?

I am thinking optimizing the brain first then if I feel still inflamed will switch to high EPA/DHA ratio. Also in the article EPA can be turned to DHA but not the other way. Your thoughts highly appreciated. Many thanks.

I think the article about ratio is from Nutrition Notes CASi ( Clinical Application of Scientific innovation)

    David Tomen
    April 5, 2022

    Marcie, there are more effective ways to tame inflammation that using an Omega-3 supplement. Your brain cells need DHA along with phosphatidylserine and phosphatidylcholine to be healthy. EPA is not part of the membrane.

      Jatin
      January 12, 2023

      Hi David, will it be fine if I just take DHA 1000mg per day no EPA supplement? I want to take it for brain benefits. I’m on cdp choline, ALA, ALCAR, NAC, COEQ10, a Multivitamin, boron, DIM, Magnesium, Tongkat Ali.

      Thanks!

        David Tomen
        January 13, 2023

        Jatin, you should be OK just using DHA because your body naturally converts some DHA into EPA.

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