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Difference Between ALA and DHA


Dietary supplements aid in maintaining good health for an individual as well as work to help prevent the occurrence of diseases. One kind of dietary supplement commonly found in our staple food and meals are the omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids, also termed as n-3 fatty acids are significant, unsaturated, essential, fatty acids that the body cannot synthesize but are essentially important for metabolism. These types of nutrients are commonly found in edible oils such as fish oils and plant oils. Some familiar sources for plant oils are algal oil and flaxseed oil. Omega-3 fatty acids are believed to contribute to several health benefits for the human body. Some of these are very helpful in reducing the incidence of infection, cardiovascular diseases, and even cancer. Two of the most common and nutritionally important fatty acids are ALA or a-linolenic acid and DHA or docosahexaenoic acid. Though both of these fatty acids are vitally necessary to be included in everyone’s diet, some of their differences are hereby noted.

ALA (a-linolenic acid) is one of the essential omega-3 fatty acids found in food. ALA is very abundant in some plant sources or plant products such as vegetable oil. These plant products include: flaxseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and soy bean oil. On the other hand, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is also found in food sources, specifically seafoods such as fish oils. Although DHA and ALA are both omega-3 fatty acids, they totally have different compositions. ALA is composed of 18:3n-3 while DHA is composed of 22:6n-3. Consuming great amounts of these omega-3 fatty acids can lead to having major benefits to our health outweighing the minimal negative effects. According to studies, DHA is one of the essential nutrients that are needed for normal brain functions which includes memory enhancement, faster ability to learn, improved cognitive performance, etc. It is also believed that DHA is one of the nutrients needed by the retina to improve visual acuity. High dietary intake of ALA is believed to reduce the incidence of serious heart diseases. However, increased intake of this omega-3 fatty acid may lead to an increase in the probability of having prostate cancer in males. Moreover, recent studies show that DHA is found to be more effective than ALA in decreasing the risk of having lifestyle-related diseases specifically coronary heart disease. DHA has an effect on decreasing risk factors contributing to cardiovascular diseases which includes anti-thrombolytic, anti-arrhythmic, and lowering bad cholesterol or triglyceride blood levels. Consequently, ALA does not have an effect on factors contributing to cardiovascular disease.

With the given differences between the two omega-3 essential fatty acids, ALA and DHA, and their proven health benefits to the human body, it is imperative to include foods rich in these dietary supplements in our daily diet. In doing this, there is an increased chance of preventing well-known diseases with high mortality rates. In other words, DHA and ALA can help us achieve a healthy body to enjoy every bit of life’s surprises.


1.ALA is very abundant in some plant sources or plant products such as vegetable oil while DHA is found in food sources specifically seafoods such as fish oils.
2.ALA is composed of 18:3n-3 while DHA is composed of 22:6n-3.
3.DHA has a higher effect on decreasing the risk factors of cardiovascular disease than ALA.

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