Dha (Docosahexaenoic Acid)
- What other names is Dha (docosahexaenoic Acid) known by?
- What is Dha (docosahexaenoic Acid)?
- How does Dha (docosahexaenoic Acid) work?
- Are there safety concerns?
- Are there any interactions with medications?
- Dosing considerations for Dha (docosahexaenoic Acid).
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 migraine headaches 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.
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...
- 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.
- Mental performance. Research suggests that taking 400-1000 mg of DHA daily for 2-4 months does not improve mental performance in healthy children. Taking DHA daily for 4 months also does not improve memory and learning in elderly women.
- Depression. Taking DHA by mouth does not seem to relieve depression symptoms.
- Diabetes. Taking DHA by mouth does not seem to lower blood sugar or cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.
Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...
- Alzheimer's disease. Some research suggests that getting more DHA from the diet might help to prevent Alzheimer's disease. However, evidence suggests that taking 2 grams of DHA daily for 18 months does not slow mental or functional decline in people with Alzheimer's disease.
- Cystic fibrosis. Early research suggests that taking 70 mg per kg of body weight of DHA for 6 weeks might not improve lung function in people with cystic fibrosis.
- Dementia. Early research suggests that taking 0.72 grams of DHA daily for one year might improve symptoms of dementia.
- 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 (Efalex) seems to improve movement disorders in children with dyspraxia.
- Improving infant development. Evidence about the effects of DHA on infant development is inconsistent. There is some evidence 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. However, if formula is used, some experts suggest a formula providing at least 0.2% of fats from DHA.
- Liver disease (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease). Early research suggests that taking 250-500 mg of DHA daily for 6 months reduces the risk of severe fat accumulation in the liver in children with liver disease.
- Prostate cancer. Some results from clinical research suggest that higher levels of DHA in the blood are linked with an increased risk of developing prostate cancer that grows rapidly. However, other evidence shows that higher intake of DHA in the diet reduces the risk of developing this type of prostate cancer. Also, some research suggests that higher intake of DHA in the diet is linked with a reduced risk of developing prostate cancer that spreads to other tissues.
- Inherited vision loss (retinitis pigmentosa). Evidence on the effectiveness of DHA for people with an inherited condition causing vision loss is inconsistent. Some research suggests that taking 1200 mg of DHA daily for 4 years does not improve eye function in people with retinitis pigmentosa who are also taking vitamin A. However, taking 400 mg of DHA daily for 4 years seems to improve eye function in some people, but visual function does not seem to improve.
- Other conditions.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).
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