If ever there were a vegan nootropic, algal DHA would be an integral part. DHA from algae is one of the only comparable sources of this essential fatty acid to fish oil. Although many well-intentioned vegans and vegetarians believe flaxseed and other generic omega-3 fatty acids are all the same, they are not.
The omega-3s in flaxseed (ALA) do not yield high quantities of DHA and EPA , which are the two more important omega-3 fatty acids for optimal mental and physical performance. The only vegetarian source with high bioavailability and conversion is DHA from algae .
Also Known As
DHA Algae, DHA algal oil
Editors’ Thoughts on Algal DHA
The algal DHA products by themselves have always seemed somewhat pricey in my experience so I’ve never gone that route. I’m optimistic about the effects of algal oil or DHA from algae because it is well-studied. For those who are on a tighter budget or cannot afford the more expensive option, obviously fish oil would be my recommendation.
That being said, the more animal-friendly alternative would be to algal DHA, which is one of the primary reasons the Qualia nootropic utilizes this option.
Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor
Benefits of Algal DHA
While there are benefits of algal DHA specifically, any discussion on the subject must start by understanding DHA alone. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is one of the two most important nutrients for adequate cognitive function. DHA has an anti-inflammatory effect by acting as a precursor for NPD1 . This anti-inflammatory has strong neuroprotective effects over time.
Although both DHA and EPA are useful for aspects of cognition, DHA specifically can do a world of good. Ironically, even though many people claim superiority of fish oil products, the fish only have DHA because they consume the algae as a raw material .
Beyond neuroprotection, DHA can increase cerebral oxygenation and blood flow, which can both influence cognitive performance and memory .
Unlike fish oil, however, the algal DHA products usually lack EPA and thus confer fewer mood benefits. According to numerous studies, the EPA is the main cause of antidepressive symptoms in a meta-analysis covering 1,000 participants . However, there are plenty of unique advantages of DHA (and specifically algae DHA) alone.
One of these purported (though not well-studied) benefits is for heart health. Whereas fatty acids from fish may have deleterious effects on coronary markers, algal DHA specifically reduces triglycerides and increases “good” cholesterol .
Another speculative benefit of DHA from algae are the reduced risks for mercury or heavy metals contamination. While some fish oil products are poorly sourced and contain these impurities, the likelihood of algal oil having the same problems is low.
What’s Special About DHA Algal Oil?
Almost all of the benefits from omega-3 fatty acids come from the DHA and EPA. Our brains are primarily made up of DHA, but most vegetarian omega-3 options aren’t adequate for supplying this important nutrient. Algal DHA is the only vegetarian alternative to fish oil, which really impacts cognition and mental performance in a positive way .
According to a 2014 meta-analysis, the ten key papers over the past decade all showed ALA from nut and seed oils weren’t well converted to DHA while microalgae oil increased DHA significantly .
This is proof that the DHA benefits inherent to algae oil are not only relevant for everyone, but even more relevant for vegans or vegetarians missing this key nutritional component.
Side Effects of Algal DHA
There are few side effects of DHA in general, but even fewer for algal DHA. Some people may complain of digestive issues when consuming DHA from algae on an empty stomach or in high doses. Most people do not experience any negative side effects of algal DHA.
Although anecdotal, there are complaints that DHA from algae can contain titanium dioxide. While it may have more to do with the brands who process the algae, it is a concern to be mindful of.
Algal DHA Dosage
The standard dosage for algal DHA is anywhere from 500 – 900 mg per day. While “mega-dosing” is popular among nootropic and smart drug communities, providing a smaller dose of 500 mg will probably serve the purposes of improving cognition and preventing neurological decline.
How and Where to Buy Algal DHA
Although untested for many years, now that DHA from algae has been well-established as a source for this valuable nutrient, there are many products. One of the most famous brands within the omega-3 and fish oil industry is Nordic Naturals, which is both well-respected and reputable.
If you are planning to buy algal DHA, it may be useful to look for something like Nordic Naturals Algae Omega. This product has 570 mg servings of algal oil and it comes in a 120 count bottle making it a highly cost effective option.
Selected Community Experiences
“…many algal dha products have titanium dioxide.”  – clothingoptional21
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