Climate Change Is Depleting This Essential Omega-3 Fatty Acid, Study Finds

mbg Editorial Assistant By Jamie Schneider
mbg Editorial Assistant
Jamie Schneider is the Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen with a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan. She's previously written for Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Climate Change Is Depleting This Essential Omega-3 Fatty Acid

Image by Kaat Zoetekouw / Stocksy

If you're keen on getting in your omega-3s (who isn't?), you—or your children and grandchildren, most likely—may experience an issue down the line. 

By 2100, a study published in the journal Ambio predicts that 96% of the global population may not have access to an essential brain-building omega-3 fatty acid, called Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). 

DHA is a crucial fatty acid for our neuroprotection, cell survival, and inflammation, and we can't produce an adequate enough amount of it ourselves (meaning we must obtain it through eating seafood or by taking supplements). DHA is produced by algae, and it's very sensitive to slight changes in temperature, so it makes sense that it would be so vulnerable to global warming.

A group of scientists developed a mathematical model to determine the potential decrease in DHA with varying global warming scenarios, predicted in the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They found that if climate change continues at this current rate without any initiatives for reducing our footprint, the DHA we receive from our fish production will not be able to keep up with the demand of our world's population growth. 

"According to our model, global warming could result in a 10 to 58% loss of globally available DHA in the next 80 years," author of the study, Stefanie Colombo, Ph.D., and her colleagues said in a news release. "A decrease in levels will have the greatest effect on vulnerable populations and periods of human development, such as fetuses and infants, and may also affect predatory mammals, especially those in Polar Regions." Omega-3 fatty acids are so critical for cognitive development and learning, which is crucial for the health of vulnerable populations like infants as their brains develop.

But before you throw in the towel with the notion that we're doomed, there could be light at the end of this omega-3-deficient tunnel: Protecting our marine ecosystems could have the potential to help keep our DHA levels in check. The study doesn't take into account our DHA intake if climate change initiatives are put into place and our carbon footprints are reduced. Perhaps if we can slow these temperature increases—along with staying away from farmed fish and helping to protect our oceans from plastics—we can prolong DHA's shelf life in our diets. 

For now, here are some simple lifestyle changes you can make that will help you combat climate change. Let's put those brain-building benefits we get from these omega-3s to good use as we create new initiatives and push for reform. 

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