Fact or Myth: Can DHA Protect Your Brain from Binge Drinking?

This is a FACT.

alcohol benefitsAlcohol isn’t all bad. It’s been linked to health benefits like heart health and type 2 diabetes control. But beyond one drink a day and into binge territory—five or more drinks in two hours for males and four or more drinks in two hours for females—puts you at risk for liver failure, certain types of cancer, and dementia. Approximately 88,000 Americans die from binge drinking every year, suggesting that a moderate one drink a day isn’t the norm for many.

As well as increasing your risk for heart attack, stroke and death, alcohol activates pro-inflammatory pathways in the brain associated with dementia, greatly decreasing your quality of life as you age. Studies have shown, however, that supplementing with the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) can help keep alcohol’s pro-inflammatory state in check.

Slipping into Dementia

DHA is one of the major building blocks of the brain, and maintaining adequate DHA levels is important throughout life. This fatty acid enhances brain function and reduces inflammation, protects against life-threatening cardiovascular events, improves vision, and helps to manage the various symptoms of autoimmune diseases. Binge drinking drains DHA levels in the brain, but supplementation can help protect your DHA stores.

Scientists at Loyola School of Medicine found that when the brain cells of rats were exposed to excessive levels of alcohol along with DHA they exhibited significantly less inflammation and cell death than brain cells not protected by DHA. The DHA appeared to inhibit the oxidative damage normally set into motion by binge drinking.

Numerous studies have likewise demonstrated that high levels of DHA in the brain lower the incidence of age-related dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. So whether you drink or not, DHA supplementation is a must!

Supplementing with DHA

Look for an omega-3 supplement with a rich concentration of DHA—at least 1000 mg. Many omega-3 supplements contain more EPA (eico-sapentaenoic acid). EPA is cheaper to produce and carries less of a fishy odor. The neurological benefits of omega-3, however, come from DHA, not EPA, so check those labels!