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Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid that is found along with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in cold-water fish, including tuna and salmon.

DHA plays a key role in the development of eye and nerve tissues. DHA might also reduce the risk of heart and circulatory disease by decreasing the thickness of the blood, reducing swelling (inflammation), and lowering blood levels of triglycerides.

People commonly use DHA for high levels of cholesterol or other fats in the blood. It is also used for boosting memory and thinking skills, for helping infant and child development, for certain eye disorders, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support many of these uses.

Don't confuse DHA with EPA. They are both in fish oil, but they are not the same. DHA can be converted into EPA in the body in very small amounts. See separate listings for algal oil, cod liver oil, fish oil, EPA, and krill oil.

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  • Hyperlipidemia.  Most research shows that taking oral DHA alone or with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) seems to modestly reduce triglyceride levels. However, DHA does not decrease total cholesterol and may increase levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
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When taken by mouth: DHA is likely safe for most people. It's been used safely for up to 4 years. Most side effects are mild and involve stomach and intestine issues. But people shouldn't take more than 3 grams of DHA or other omega-3 fatty acids daily, and no more than 2 grams daily should come from a dietary supplement. Taking more than 3 grams daily of DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids is possibly unsafe. Doing so might slow blood clotting and increase the chance of bleeding.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: DHA is likely safe when taken by mouth in appropriate amounts during pregnancy and breast-feeding. DHA is commonly used during pregnancy and is an ingredient in some prenatal vitamins. DHA is also a normal part of breast milk and added to some infant formulas. It's recommended that 200-300 mg of DHA are consumed daily during pregnancy and breast-feeding, either from supplements or food sources.

Children: DHA is likely safe when used appropriately. DHA is included in some infant formulas. Also, DHA has been safely given to children 7 years and older at doses of 30 mg/kg daily for up to 4 years. It has also been safely given to children 4 years and older at doses of 0.4-1 gram daily for up to 1 year. But DHA is possibly unsafe when used in preterm infants born at less than 29 weeks. It might worsen breathing in these infants.

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

Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs)

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

DHA can decrease blood pressure. Taking DHA along with medications for high blood pressure might cause you blood pressure to go too low.

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)

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

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.

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.

Herbs and supplements that might lower blood pressure: DHA might lower blood pressure. Taking it with other supplements that have the same effect might cause blood pressure to drop too much. Examples of supplements with this effect include andrographis, casein peptides, L-arginine, niacin, and stinging nettle.
Herbs and supplements that might slow blood clotting: DHA might slow blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding. Taking it with other supplements with similar effects might increase the risk of bleeding in some people. Examples of supplements with this effect include garlic, ginger, ginkgo, nattokinase, and Panax ginseng.

There are no known interactions with foods.

DHA is commonly consumed in the diet. Sources include cold-water fish, including mackerel, herring, tuna, halibut, salmon, cod liver, whale blubber, and seal blubber.

In supplements, DHA has most often been used by adults in doses of 400-800 mg by mouth daily for up to 6 months.

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