Is DHA an essential nutrient?
An essential nutrient, like Vitamin C, is something the body cannot make and needs to obtain from the diet. DHA is considered a non-essential nutrient, because the body is able to manufacture it from another fatty acid, EPA (eicosa-pentaenoic acid). However, the enzymes which convert EPA into DHA are often very slow and inefficient. Thus, it makes sense to get DHA directly from the diet.
The only essential omega-3 fatty acid for humans is ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). The body cannot manufacture ALA, but obtains it from the diet. In principle, ALA can be converted into EPA by special enzymes. Then EPA, as mentioned, is further converted into DHA. However, many factors may hinder this enzymatic conversion process. Generally, relying on ALA's conversion to DHA is not the surest way of ensuring your body gets enough DHA.
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