DHA and Folic Acid for the Brain
A friend and subscriber recently emailed me to say that he
has been taking DHA and folic acid to improve his brain function,
and with very good results. That motivated me to investigate
the two dietary supplements, and this is what I found.
DHA and the Brain
DHA is docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid which is
found in abundance in fish and other seafood. The evidence for
it's usefulness as a supplement outside of normal consumption
of fish is still somewhat weak, but keep in mind that it is a
relatively safe substance and that anything which is proved useful
by science was useful before the proof came.
What is clear from the research is that a deficiency of DHA
is associated with cognitive decline. There also is evidence
of increased neural cell death when DHA is lacking. Studies show
that the cerebral cortex of severely depressed patients are often
depleted of DHA. It seems likely then, that if a person is deficient,
supplementation could have noticeable good effects.
Folic Acid and the Brain
Folic acid is also known as vitamin B9, folicin and--in it's
natural state--folate. This substance has more evidence for its
beneficial effects on the brain. In one study, more than 800
subjects over 50-years-old took 800 micrograms daily. Compared
to those ho took a placebo they were found to have improved their
short-term memory, mental agility, and verbal fluency (reported
in The Lancet January 20, 2007).
If you don't like taking nutritional supplements you can get
your folate from a variety of foods. Here's a short list of some
that are highest in folate:
Given their relative safety, taking DHA and folic acid for
your brain seems like reasonable self-experimentation. But check
with your doctor before starting.