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DHA Supplementation to Reduce Symptoms of Chemo Brain

Posted by Manuela Boyle on 29 October 2021
DHA Supplementation to Reduce Symptoms of Chemo Brain

Chemo brain is a common term used by cancer survivors to describe thinking and memory problems that can occur during and after cancer treatment. Chemo brain can also be called chemo fog, cancer-related cognitive impairment or cognitive dysfunction.

Signs and symptoms of chemo brain may include the following:

  • Being unusually disorganised
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty finding the right word
  • Difficulty learning new skills
  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Feeling of mental fogginess
  • Short attention span
  • Short-term memory problems
  • Taking longer than usual to complete routine tasks
  • Trouble with verbal memory, such as remembering a conversation
  • Trouble with visual memory, such as recalling an image or list of words

DHA is associated with supporting brain health. Lower levels of DHA have been associated with smaller hippocampal volumes, accumulation of amyloid plaques, and overall lower cognitive function.

New research shows targeted, dose-dependent supplementation with DHA lowers Alzheimer's and Dementia risk. 

DHA may also provide protective effects on dopaminergic neurons, and it may be associated with a lower risk of neurodegenerative issues

Some metabolites of DHA have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and neuronal protective effects.

A recent study assessed the effects of DHA and its metabolites on animals with Parkinson’s disease induced by rotenone, a pesticide that inhibits mitochondrial function.

The study results indicated that DHA metabolites improved motor dysfunction and induced nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2)-regulating antioxidant genes, contributing to the possible protective effects of DHA against neurodegenerative issues.

Another recent animal study assessed the effect of DHA supplementation on developing brains. The study showed that supplementation with DHA significantly improved the learning ability in two groups of young mice at 3-weeks and 7-weeks of age. This research analysed the difference between DHA when esterified to triglycerides or phospholipids from sources such as krill oil. DHA as phospholipids was associated with a more significant improvement in cognitive deficiencies and higher brain DHA accretion. In addition, the younger mice demonstrated better performances of spatial task tests when supplementation with DHA, as phospholipids were provided.

Typically, omega-3 fatty acids, such as DHA, are not found in sufficient quantities in the standard American diet. DHA can be obtained from dietary sources, such as salmon, krill oil, sardines, oily fish, and supplementation. DHA supplementation may support overall cognitive health, and it may play a role in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases.

Author:Manuela Boyle
Tags:NewsNutritional SupplementsEvidence Based ResearchCancerchemotherapy side effects


  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
  • Society for Integrative Oncology
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
  • Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia