DHA (DOCOSAHEXAENOIC ACID)

OTHER NAME(S):

Acide Docosahexaénoïque, Acide Gras d’Huile de Poisson, Acide Gras Oméga 3, Acide Gras N-3, Acide Gras W-3, Acido Docosahexaenoico, ADH, DHA, Fish Oil Fatty Acid, N-3 Fatty Acid, Neuromins, Omega 3, Oméga 3, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, W-3 Fatty Acid.<br/><br/>

Overview

Overview Information

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is a fatty acid found in the meat of cold-water fish, including mackerel, herring, tuna, halibut, salmon, cod liver, whale blubber, and seal blubber.

Don’t confuse DHA with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). They are both in fish oil, but they are not the same. DHA can be converted into EPA in the body. See separate listings for fish oil and EPA.

DHA is used as a supplement for premature babies and as an ingredient in baby formula during the first four months of life to promote better mental development. This practice probably started because DHA is found naturally in breast milk. DHA is also used in combination with arachidonic acid during the first four to six months of life for this purpose.

DHA is used for treating type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease (CAD), dementia, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Some people use DHA is for improving vision, preventing an eye disease called age-related macular degeneration (AMD), preventing and treating depression, and reducing aggressive behavior in people in stressful situations.

DHA is used in combination with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) for a variety of conditions, including the prevention and reversal of heart disease, stabilizing heart rhythm, asthma, cancer, painful menstrual periods, hayfever, lung diseases, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and certain kidney diseases. EPA and DHA are also used in combination for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, psoriasis, Raynaud’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, bipolar disorder, certain inflammations of the digestive system (ulcerative colitis) and preventing migraineheadaches in teenagers.

It is also used in combination with evening primrose oil, thyme oil, and vitamin E (Efalex) to improve movement disorders in children with a condition called dyspraxia.

How does it work?

DHA plays a key role in the development of eye and nerve tissues. DHA may also reduce the risk of heart and circulatory disease by decreasing the thickness of the blood and lowering blood levels of triglycerides.

Uses

Uses & Effectiveness?

Possibly Effective for

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Increased consumption of DHA in the diet is associated with a lower risk of developing vision loss due to aging.
  • Clogged arteries (coronary artery disease). Increased consumption of DHA in the diet might lower the risk of death in people with coronary artery disease.
  • High cholesterol. Research suggests that taking 1.2-4 grams of DHA daily can lower triglyceride levels in people with high cholesterol. DHA does not seem to lower total cholesterol, and might increase both high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol.

Possibly Ineffective for

  • Age-related mental decline. Although a higher intake of dietary DHA has been associated with a reduced risk of mental decline, taking a DHA supplement does not appear to have a benefit. Most research shows that taking DHA alone or with other ingredients does not improve memory, forgetfulness, or learning ability in people with age-related mental decline or mild mental impairment. Also, taking DHA does not improve learning or memory in elderly people without mental decline. However, some research shows that taking DHA might improve memory of events and visual and spatial learning in people with age-related mental decline.
  • Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Many children with ADHD have low levels of DHA in their blood. However, taking DHA does not seem to improve ADHD symptoms, although some early research suggests that DHA might help children with ADHD become less aggressive and get along better with others.
  • Lung-related complications in preterm infants. Research shows that DHA does not prevent lung-related complications in preterm infants born < 29 weeks gestation age. in fact, dha might actually increase the risk of lung-related complications. additional research is needed to confirm these findings.
  • Cancer. Research suggests that taking DHA along with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), with or without B vitamins, does not reduce the risk of getting any type of cancer in middle-aged and elderly people with heart disease. In fact taking the combination might increase the risk of cancer in women.
  • Mental performance. Research suggests that taking DHA does not improve mental performance in healthy children, young women, or healthy adults. Also, taking DHA along with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) does not improve mental function. One study shows that taking DHA can improve reading scores in children below the 20th percentile for reading. But it doesn't seem to improve reading scores in other children.
  • Depression. Taking DHA by mouth does not seem to relieve or prevent depression symptoms in most people. It also doesn't seem to prevent depression from developing in people with hepatitis C who are undergoing a treatment that is linked with depression. But taking DHA may delay the development of depression in these patients. Also, early research suggests that taking DHA along with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) might improve symptoms of depression in elderly people with mild mental impairment.
  • Diabetes. Taking DHA by mouth does not seem to lower blood sugar or cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. Also, levels of DHA in the blood of the pregnant mother do not appear to be associated with risk of type 1 diabetes in the child.

Insufficient Evidence for

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Increased intake of DHA as part of the diet is associated with a lower risk of developing vision loss due to aging. This may be related to the effects of DHA on color, or pigment, in a specific part of the eye, called the macula. However, when DHA is taken along with other vitamins and minerals known to prevent age-related vision loss, DHA does not seem to offer any improvement.
  • Alzheimer's disease. Some research suggests that people who get more DHA from their diet have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. But taking DHA supplements does not slow mental or functional decline in people with Alzheimer's disease.
  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema). Adding DHA and the fatty acid arachidonic acid to infant formula does not seem to prevent the development of eczema compared to regular formula.
  • Hypersensitivity. Research shows that giving hypersensitive women DHA supplements during pregnancy reduces the number of infants who experience nasal discharge and nasal congestion with or without fever after birth.
  • Abnormal heart rhythm. Having higher levels of DHA in fat tissue does not seem to be linked with a lower risk of abnormal heart rhythm. However, research suggests that taking DHA along with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) around the time of heart surgery reduces the risk of having abnormal heart rhythm after surgery.
  • Autism. Early research suggests that taking DHA does not improve most symptoms of autism. But it might help with specific symptoms like social withdrawal and communication.
  • Breast cancer. Increased dietary intake of DHA does not seem to be linked with a reduced risk of breast cancer. But taking DHA during chemotherapy treatment might help delay progression of the breast cancer and improve survival.
  • Crohn's disease. Increased intake of DHA as part of the diet is linked with a lower risk of developing Crohn's disease.
  • Cystic fibrosis. Early research suggests that taking DHA for up to one year does not improve lung function in people with cystic fibrosis.
  • Dementia. People who get more DHA from their diet might have a lower risk of developing dementia. Early research also shows that taking DHA for one year improves symptoms of dementia caused by a condition related to blood clots in the brain (thrombotic cerebrovascular diseases).
  • Diabetic related eye disease (diabetic retinopathy). Early research shows that taking a combination supplement containing DHA and many other ingredients along with a conventional medication might reduce thickness of the macula of the eye. But it doesn't seem to improve vision. The effect of taking DHA alone is unknown.
  • Diarrhea. Early research shows that feeding infants formula with added DHA and the fatty acid arachidonic acid helps prevent the development of serious diarrhea compared to giving regular formula.
  • Dyslexia. Taking DHA by mouth seems to improve night vision in children with dyslexia.
  • Movement and coordination disorder (dyspraxia). Taking DHA by mouth together with evening primrose oil, thyme oil, and vitamin E seems to improve movement in children with dyspraxia.
  • Hypertension. Early research shows that eating a specific canola oil rich in DHA may modestly reduce blood pressure in people with at least one risk factor for heart disease. Research also shows that prenatal exposure to DHA might lessen blood pressure elevation in overweight and obese children by the age of 5 years. It's unknown if this lower blood pressure during childhood is linked with a reduced risk of high blood pressure in adulthood.
  • Improving infant development. Some research suggests that infants who do not receive DHA from breast milk or formula have delayed mental and visual development compared to those who receive enough DHA. Some researchers reasoned that giving DHA in formula might improve development. However, when they tested this theory, study results did not agree. The reason for the differences may be due to the way the studies were designed. For now, experts generally recommend breast-feeding instead of formula-feeding. If formula is used, some experts suggest a formula providing at least 0.2% of fats from DHA. Taking DHA during pregnancy does not seem to significantly improve fetal or infant development.
  • Liver disease (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease). Early research suggests that taking DHA for up to 2 years reduces the risk of severe fat accumulation in the liver in children with liver disease.
  • Obesity. Early research shows that taking DHA reduces the dietary intake of carbohydrate and fat in overweight or obese women. But it does not seem to help with weight reduction in these people.
  • Ear infection. Early research suggests that feeding infants formula with added DHA and the fatty acid arachidonic acid does not seem to prevent the development of ear infections compared to feeding regular formula.
  • Pain after surgery. Early research shows that DHA given by mouth to infants undergoing heart surgery might reduce the amount of pain medications needed after surgery.
  • Prostate cancer. Results of two population studies show that higher dietary intake of DHA is linked with a reduced risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer and advanced prostate cancer. However, analyses of several population studies show that higher intake of DHA is linked with an increased risk of prostate cancer.
  • Respiratory tract infections. Some research shows that giving preterm infants formula containing 1% DHA does not prevent serious respiratory tract infections compared to formula containing 0.35% DHA. However, some early research shows that giving full-term infants formula with added DHA and the fatty acid arachidonic acid reduces the risk of bronchitis, croup, stuffy nose, and cough compared to regular formula.
  • Inherited condition that causes vision loss (retinitis pigmentosa). Research on the effectiveness of DHA for people with retinitis pigmentosa is inconsistent. Some research suggests that taking DHA for 4 years does not improve eye function in people with retinitis pigmentosa who are also taking vitamin A. However, other research shows that taking DHA for 4 years improves eye function in some people with this condition. But visual function does not seem to improve.
  • Schizophrenia. Early research suggests that taking DHA, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and alpha-lipoic acid for 2 years does not prevent symptoms from returning in people with schizophrenia who stop taking their medication.
  • Inherited neurological condition that causes uncontrolled body movements (spinocerebellar ataxia). Early research shows that taking DHA daily for 4 months might reduce symptoms and improve brain imaging related to spinocerebellar ataxia.
  • Stroke. Higher blood levels of DHA are linked with a reduced risk of stroke.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate DHA for these uses.

Side Effects

Side Effects & Safety

DHA is LIKELY SAFE for most adults and children when taken by mouth. It has been used safely in studies for up to 4 years. DHA can cause nausea, intestinal gas, bruising, and prolonged bleeding. Fish oils containing DHA can cause fishy taste, belching, nosebleeds, and loose stools. Taking DHA with meals can often decrease these side effects.

DHA is POSSIBLY SAFE when injected intravenously (by IV) along with the fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) for a short period of time. DHA plus EPA has been safely given by IV for up to 14 days.

DHA is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when used in large amounts. When used in amounts greater than 3 gram per day, DHA-containing oils can thin the blood and increase the risk for bleeding. In women, this effect might occur at a lower dose of 1 gram per day.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: DHA is LIKELY SAFE when used appropriately during pregnancy and breast-feeding. DHA is commonly used during pregnancy and is an ingredient in some prenatal vitamins. DHA is a normal component of breast milk and is added as a supplement to some infant formulas. If it is taken by the mother during lactation, DHA levels increase in the breast milk.

Infants and children: DHA is LIKELY SAFE when used appropriately. DHA is a component of some infant formula. But DHA is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when used in preterm infants born < 29 weeks gestational age. it might worsen breathing in preterm infants who already have difficulty breathing.

Aspirin-sensitivity: DHA might affect your breathing if you are sensitive to aspirin.

Bleeding conditions: DHA alone does not seem to affect blood clotting. However, when taken with EPA as in fish oil, doses over 3 grams daily might increase the risk of bleeding.

Diabetes: DHA seems to increase blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.

Low blood pressure: DHA can lower blood pressure. This might increase the risk of blood pressure becoming too low in people who already have low blood pressure.

Interactions

Interactions?

Moderate Interaction

Be cautious with this combination

!
  • Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs) interacts with DHA (DOCOSAHEXAENOIC ACID)

    DHA can decrease blood pressure. Taking DHA along with medications for high blood pressure might cause you blood pressure to go too low.<br/><br/> Some medications for high blood pressure include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan), diltiazem (Cardizem), Amlodipine (Norvasc), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDiuril), furosemide (Lasix), and many others.

  • Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs) interacts with DHA (DOCOSAHEXAENOIC ACID)

    DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is often combined with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). EPA might slow blood clotting. Taking DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.<br/><br/> Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.

Dosing

Dosing

Experts recommend increasing your daily dietary intake of cold-water fish, including mackerel, herring, tuna, halibut, and salmon.

DHA is usually administered with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) as fish oil. A wide range of doses have been used. A typical dose is 5 grams of fish oil containing 169-563 mg of EPA and 72-312 mg of DHA.

View References

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  • Conquer, J. A., Martin, J. B., Tummon, I., Watson, L., and Tekpetey, F. Fatty acid analysis of blood serum, seminal plasma, and spermatozoa of normozoospermic vs. asthenozoospermic males. Lipids 1999;34(8):793-799. View abstract.
  • Courage, M. L., McCloy, U. R., Herzberg, G. R., Andrews, W. L., Simmons, B. S., McDonald, A. C., Mercer, C. N., and Friel, J. K. Visual acuity development and fatty acid composition of erythrocytes in full-term infants fed breast milk, commercial formula, or evaporated milk. J Dev.Behav Pediatr 1998;19(1):9-17. View abstract.
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  • Das, U. N. Essential fatty acids and their metabolites could function as endogenous HMG-CoA reductase and ACE enzyme inhibitors, anti-arrhythmic, anti-hypertensive, anti-atherosclerotic, anti-inflammatory, cytoprotective, and cardioprotective molecules. Lipids Health Dis 2008;7:37. View abstract.
  • Davidson, M. H., Maki, K. C., Kalkowski, J., Schaefer, E. J., Torri, S. A., and Drennan, K. B. Effects of docosahexaenoic acid on serum lipoproteins in patients with combined hyperlipidemia: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J.Am.Coll.Nutr. 1997;16(3):236-243. View abstract.
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  • Egert, S., Fobker, M., Andersen, G., Somoza, V., Erbersdobler, H. F., and Wahrburg, U. Effects of dietary alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid or docosahexaenoic acid on parameters of glucose metabolism in healthy volunteers. Ann Nutr Metab 2008;53(3-4):182-187. View abstract.
  • Egert, S., Kannenberg, F., Somoza, V., Erbersdobler, H. F., and Wahrburg, U. Dietary alpha-linolenic acid, EPA, and DHA have differential effects on LDL fatty acid composition but similar effects on serum lipid profiles in normolipidemic humans. J Nutr 2009;139(5):861-868. View abstract.
  • Engler, M. M., Engler, M. B., Malloy, M. J., Paul, S. M., Kulkarni, K. R., and Mietus-Snyder, M. L. Effect of docosahexaenoic acid on lipoprotein subclasses in hyperlipidemic children (the EARLY study). Am J Cardiol 4-1-2005;95(7):869-871. View abstract.
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  • Erkkila, A. T., Matthan, N. R., Herrington, D. M., and Lichtenstein, A. H. Higher plasma docosahexaenoic acid is associated with reduced progression of coronary atherosclerosis in women with CAD. J Lipid Res 2006;47(12):2814-2819. View abstract.
  • Farooqui, A. A., Horrocks, L. A., and Farooqui, T. Modulation of inflammation in brain: a matter of fat. J Neurochem. 2007;101(3):577-599. View abstract.
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  • Gale, C. R., Marriott, L. D., Martyn, C. N., Limond, J., Inskip, H. M., Godfrey, K. M., Law, C. M., Cooper, C., West, C., and Robinson, S. M. Breastfeeding, the use of docosahexaenoic acid-fortified formulas in infancy and neuropsychological function in childhood. Arch Dis Child 2010;95(3):174-179. View abstract.
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