You probably have heard that omega-3s are good for you, particularly the omega-3 fat DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Surprisingly, the American population is not getting enough of this important nutrient.
When it comes to DHA, a good diet is crucial. You must get DHA through foods since your body cannot make enough of it on its own.
Why do we need DHA?
DHA is important for healthy nerve cells in the brain and eyes. In adults, DHA can protect against the development of a number of chronic diseases. In infants and children, DHA is essential for visual and cognitive development.
How much do we need?
Adults should get a minimum of between 160 to 300 milligrams of DHA each day, according to the Dietary Reference Intakes and clinical studies. And while in the U.S. there are no formal guidelines established for DHA in children, some estimate that children should get at least 100 milligrams.
Why are we not getting enough?
While the number of fortified foods available with DHA is increasing, it is sparse in our food supply. Children are especially at risk of a shortfall because when they are weaned from DHA-rich breast milk or infant formula, the foods and beverages that replace breast milk and formula are low in DHA, if they contain any at all.
The main dietary source of DHA, fish, is not a staple of most kids' diets, and concerns about contaminants, as well as the rise in food allergies, have reduced children's fish intake even more.
What are good sources of DHA?
Good sources of DHA are cold-water fatty fish like canned salmon, canned tuna, wild Alaska sockeye or Alaska pink salmon.
If you're not a fish lover, there are many foods on grocery store shelves that are fortified with a vegetarian form of DHA made from algae called life'sDHA. For example, you can now find yogurt, milk, juices, breads, soymilk and nutrition bars with this vegetarian DHA.
In addition, certain eggs now contain higher levels of DHA. Interestingly, the chickens are fed a specially fortified DHA diet, which results in DHA-rich eggs.
You can also take and give your children DHA supplements, but talk with your family doctor before taking any supplements or giving them to your children.
In the News: How helpful are prostate cancer screenings?
A major U.S. study involving 75,000 men shows that prostate cancer screening tests don’t appear to reduce deaths from the disease among those with a limited life-expectancy.
Results from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial show that six years of aggressive, annual screening for prostate cancer led to more diagnoses of prostate tumors but not to fewer deaths from the disease.
The study’s authors emphasize that it’s too soon to make broad screening recommendations for all men based on the study’s initial findings. The ultimate aim of the study is to find better ways to detect and treat aggressive tumors, so that men can avoid unnecessary treatments.
Did You Know?
A new study in the journal Neurobiology of Aging indicates that some aspects of people’s cognitive skills peak at about age 22, and then begin a slow decline starting around age 27.
Health Tip: Exercise can help chronically ill
The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion says regular physical activity can help people with chronic, disabling conditions improve their stamina and muscle strength and can improve psychological well-being and quality of life.
Here are some tips from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to help construct a helpful exercise routine:
- Consult a physician. He/she will be able to make recommendations about exercise frequency, duration and type of exercise most beneficial for you.
- Modify exercises, especially if symptoms cause a difference in strength or ability between one side of the body and the other.
- If a particular activity makes you feel worse, you may have overdone it. Start slowly and exercise a little longer at each session.
- Schedule physical activity for the time of the day when energy is highest. Alternate more demanding exercise with activity requiring less.
Number to Know: 1.3
Sales of prescription drugs in the U.S. rose just 1.3 percent to $291 billion in 2008. In 2007, sales rose 3.8 percent to $286.5 billion, and they rose 8 percent in 2006. – IMS Health Inc.
Children’s Health: Regular activity boosts self-esteem
A study of overweight, sedentary children ages 7 to 11 found that 40 minutes of exercise a day reduced depressive symptoms and improved self-esteem.
The study focused on fun activities that increase heart rate, such as running games, jumping rope, basketball and soccer and typically included short bursts of intense activity interspersed with lower-activity recovery periods.
Participants in these activities reported feeling better about themselves, despite the fact that the children’s weight did not change much over the three-month study.
-- Medical College of Georgia
Senior Health: Lonely face greater health risks
Although not having many close friends contributes to poorer health for many older adults, those who also feel lonely face even greater health risks, research at the University of Chicago suggests.
Older adults who feel most isolated report 65 percent more depressive symptoms than those who feel least isolated, regardless of their actual levels of connectedness.
The consequences of poor mental health can be substantial, as deteriorating mental health also reduces people's willingness to exercise and may increase health-risk behaviors such as cigarette smoking and alcohol use.
Seniors who are able to withstand socially isolating circumstances or adjust their expectations so they do not develop strong feelings of loneliness may fare better, the study suggests.
-- University of Chicago
GateHouse News Service