Docahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid that is found in fish and other marine life. DHA is a major building block of the human brain, nervous system, and eyes. It plays an important role in cognitive function and visual acuity.

DHA is an essential nutrient for infants and children, as it supports brain development. Pregnant and breastfeeding women also need adequate amounts of DHA for the healthy development of their babies.

Although our bodies can produce DHA from other omega-3 fatty acids, it is difficult to make enough to meet our needs. This is why it is important to include DHA-rich foods in our diets, or to take supplements if necessary.

Good sources of DHA include fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines. Plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseeds and chia seeds, do not contain DHA but can be converted into it by our bodies. However, the conversion process is inefficient, so it is still best to get DHA from dietary sources.

If you don’t eat fish or other seafood, you may be at risk for deficiency. Vegans and vegetarians should speak to a healthcare professional about whether they need to supplement with DHA.

Benefits

There are many potential benefits of DHA, including:

Brain health: DHA makes up a large part of the brain and is involved in various cognitive functions. adequate intake of DHA has been linked to better memory, improved reaction time, and reduced risk of age-related cognitive decline.

Eye health: DHA is essential for the development and maintenance of healthy eyesight. It has been shown to protect against age-related macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness in older adults.

Heart health: DHA can help to reduce triglyceride levels and lower blood pressure, both of which are risk factors for heart disease. Some studies have also found that DHA supplementation can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Infant development: DHA is essential for the proper development of the brain, nervous system, and eyes in infants. It has been shown to improve cognitive function and visual acuity in young children.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding: DHA is important for the healthy development of babies during pregnancy and lactation. Adequate intake is linked to reduced risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and certain birth defects. Breastfeeding mothers who take DHA supplements can pass some of the benefits on to their babies.

Risks

DHA is generally considered safe when consumed in moderate amounts from food sources or supplements. However, high doses of DHA supplements may interact with certain medications and cause side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps.

People with seafood allergies or those on blood thinners should avoid DHA supplements. Those with diabetes may need to monitor their blood sugar levels more closely if they take DHA supplements.

Pregnant women and children should not take high doses of DHA supplements unless advised to do so by a healthcare professional.

Pharmacokinetics

DHA is absorbed from the gut and metabolized in the liver. It is then stored in various tissues, including the brain and eyes. The half-life of DHA in the body is about 21 days.

Dosage

There is no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for DHA, but most experts agree that adults should consume at least 200 mg per day. Pregnant and breastfeeding women may need higher amounts.

Food sources of DHA include fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines. Plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseeds and chia seeds, do not contain DHA but can be converted into it by our bodies.

Supplements

DHA supplements are available in various forms, including capsules, tablets, liquids, and powders. The type of supplement you choose may depend on your preferences and needs.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is important to speak to a healthcare professional before taking any supplements. Children and adolescents should also consult a healthcare provider before taking supplements.

Are there any interactions?

DHA supplements may interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners and diabetes medication. High doses of DHA may also cause side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps.

It is important to speak to a healthcare professional before taking any supplements, especially if you have a medical condition or are taking medication.

What is the evidence?

There is some evidence to suggest that DHA supplements may offer various health benefits, but more research is needed.

A 2018 systematic review of 14 studies found that DHA supplementation improved cognitive function in adults aged 60 and over. The study authors concluded that DHA could be a promising treatment for age-related cognitive decline.

A 2016 systematic review of 11 studies found that DHA supplementation improved visual acuity in children aged 2-18. The study authors concluded that DHA supplementation could be an effective way to improve eyesight in children.

A 2015 systematic review of 12 studies found that DHA supplementation during pregnancy reduced the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. The study authors concluded that DHA supplementation could be an effective way to reduce the risk of these complications.

A 2014 systematic review of 11 studies found that DHA supplementation improved cognitive function in children aged 3-5. The study authors concluded that DHA could be a promising treatment for improving cognitive function in young children.

Is there a difference between men and women?

There is no significant difference between men and women when it comes to the benefits of DHA supplementation. However, pregnant and breastfeeding women may need higher amounts of DHA than other adults.