Docosahexaenoic Acid supplementation, side effects, health benefit
January 19 2016 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Docosahexaenoic acid is abbreviated as DHA  and has the chemical structure 22:6(?-3), all-cis-docosa-4,7,10,13,16,19-hexaenoic acid. Docosahexaenoic acid is an omega-3 essential fatty acid. Docosahexaenoic acid is most often found in fish oil. If you would like to buy a product with eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, see below for a fish oil product.

Source Naturals buy docosahexaenoic supplement, 100 mg

DHA is derived from algae, not fish, hence it is a vegetarian source. Docosahexaenoic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid which plays a significant role in cerebral development, especially during the crucial period of fetal development and infancy.

Supplement Facts:
Docosahexaenoic Acid 100 mg (from algal oil)

Suggested Use: 1 to 3 DHA softgels daily.

Autism, any relation?
J Neuroimmunol. 2015. A possible association between elevated serum levels of brain-specific auto-antibodies and reduced plasma levels of docosahexaenoic acid in autistic children. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are not only essential for energy production, but they also exhibit a range of immunomodulatory properties that progress through T cell mediated events. Autoimmunity may have a pathogenic role in a subgroup of autistic children. This study is the first to investigate the relationship between serum levels of anti-myelin basic protein (anti-MBP) brain-specific auto-antibodies and reduced plasma levels of PUFAs in autistic children. Plasma levels of PUFAs (including linoleic, alphalinolenic, arachidonic "AA" and docosahexaenoic "DHA" acids) and serum anti-MBP were measured in 80 autistic children, aged between 4 and 12 years, and 80 healthy-matched children. Autistic patients had significantly lower plasma levels of PUFAs than healthy children. On the other hand, ω6/ω3 ratio (AA/DHA) was significantly higher in autistic patients than healthy children. Low plasma DHA, AA, linolenic and linoleic acids were found in 67.5%, 50%, 40% and 35%, respectively of autistic children. On the other hand, 70% of autistic patients had elevated ω6/ω3 ratio. Autistic patients with increased serum levels of anti-MBP auto-antibodies (75%) had significantly lower plasma DHA and significantly higher ω6/ω3 ratio (P<0.5) than patients who were seronegative for these antibodies. In conclusions, some autistic children have a significant positive association between reduced levels of plasma DHA and increased serum levels of anti-MBP brain-specific auto-antibodies. However, replication studies of larger samples are recommended to validate whether reduced levels of plasma PUFAs are a mere association or have a role in the induction of the production of anti-MBP in some autistic children.

Brain health, Alzheimer's
Prog Lipid Res. 2016. The role of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids in the treatment of major depression and Alzheimer's disease: Acting separately or synergistically? Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3-PUFAs), mainly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA), improve or prevent some psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases in both experimental and clinical studies. As important membrane components, these PUFAs benefit brain health by modulating neuroimmune and apoptotic pathways, changing membrane function and/or competing with n-6 PUFAs, the precursors of inflammatory mediators.

Docosahexaenoic acid in breast milk
Concentrations of the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n–3) and arachidonic acid (AA, 20:4n–6) in human breast milk are important indicators of infant development. The highest docosahexaenoic acid concentrations in breast milk worldwide are primarily in coastal populations and are associated with marine food consumption.

Docosahexaenoic acid supplements and blood lipids, metabolic syndrome
Docosahexaenoic acid supplementation improves cardiovascular health by lowering concentrations of triacylglycerols and small, dense LDL particles.

Dose-dependent effects of docosahexaenoic acid-rich fish oil on erythrocyte docosahexaenoic acid and blood lipid levels.
Br J Nutr. 2007; School of Molecular and Biomedical Sciences, University of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.
Consumption of long-chain n-3 PUFA, particularly docosahexaenoic acid, has been shown to improve cardiovascular risk factors but the intake required to achieve benefits is unclear. We sought to determine the relationship between DHA intake, increases in erythrocyte DHA content and changes in blood lipids. A total of sixty-seven subjects completed a 12-week intervention. Subjects consumed 2, 4 or 6 grams a day of DHA rich fish oil (26 % DHA, 6 % EPA) or a placebo (Sunola oil). The close association between incorporation of DHA in erythrocytes and its effects on serum lipids highlights the importance of erythrocyte DHA as an indicator of cardiovascular health status.

Nutrients. 2013. Docosahexaenoic acid, inflammation, and bacterial dysbiosis in relation to periodontal disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and the metabolic syndrome. We conclude that by beneficially altering cytokine production and macrophage recruitment, the composition of intestinal microbiota and intestinal integrity, lipopolysaccharide- and adipose-induced inflammation, and insulin signaling, DHA may be a key tool in the prevention of metabolic syndrome.

Docosahexaenoic acid supplements and eczema
Docosahexaenoic acid DHA supplementation in atopic eczema: a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial.
Br J Dermatol. 2008. Allergy-Center-Charité, Department of Dermatology and Allergology, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
The aim of the pilot study was to determine the efficacy of dietary n-3 PUFA docosahexaenoic acid DHA in patients with atopic eczema. Methods Fifty-three patients suffering from atopic eczema aged 18-40 years were recruited into this randomized, double-blind, controlled trial and received either docosahexaenoic acid 5.4 g daily or an isoenergetic control of saturated fatty acids for 8 weeks. docosahexaenoic acid, but not the control treatment, resulted in a significant clinical improvement of atopic eczema. The docosahexaenoic acid group showed an increase of plasma n-3 PUFA and a decrease in the n-6/n-3 PUFA ratio. Our data suggest that dietary docosahexaenoic acid could be bioactive and might have a beneficial impact on the outcome of atopic eczema, but our results need to be confirmed in a larger study.

Learning and reading in schoolchildren
PLoS One. 2012. Docosahexaenoic acid for reading, cognition and behavior in children aged 7-9 years: a randomized, controlled trial (the DOLAB Study). Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom. Omega-3 fatty acids are dietary essentials, and the current low intakes in most modern developed countries are believed to contribute to a wide variety of physical and mental health problems. Evidence from clinical trials indicates that dietary supplementation with long-chain omega-3 may improve child behavior and learning, although most previous trials have involved children with neurodevelopmental disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or developmental coordination disorder (DCD). Here we investigated whether such benefits might extend to the general child population. DHA supplementation appears to offer a safe and effective way to improve reading and behavior in healthy but underperforming children from mainstream schools.

Mental alertness
Emerging evidence suggests that (DHA, 22:6n–3), the principal omega-3 (n–3) fatty acid in brain gray matter, positively regulates cortical metabolic function and cognitive development.
   Study: Docosahexaenoic acid supplementation increases prefrontal cortex activation during sustained attention in healthy boys: a placebo-controlled, dose-ranging, functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Robert K McNamara, Jessica Able, Ronald Jandacek, Therese Rider, Patrick Tso, James C Eliassen, David Alfieri, Wade Weber, Kelly Jarvis, Melissa P DelBello, Stephen M Strakowski, and Caleb M Adler. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010.
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Vision, eyesight
Nutrients. 2013. Effects of lutein and docosahexaenoic Acid supplementation on macular pigment optical density in a randomized controlled trial. We studied the macular pigment ocular density (MPOD) in patients with early age macular degeneration (AMD) before and 1 year after nutritional supplementation with lutein and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Forty-four patients with AMD were randomly divided into two groups that received placebo (n = 21) or a nutritional supplement (n = 23, 12 mg of lutein and 280 mg of DHA daily). Heterochromatic flicker photometry was used to determine the MPOD. At baseline, the MPOD in AMD patients with placebo was 0.286 ± 0.017 meanwhile in AMD patients with supplementation it was 0.291 ± 0.016. One year later, the mean MPOD had increased by 0.059 in the placebo group and by 0.162 in patients receiving lutein and DHA. This difference between groups was significant. Lutein and DHA supplementation is effective in increasing the MPOD and may aid in prevention of age related macular degeneration.

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2015. Docosahexaenoic Acid Slows Visual Field Progression in X-Linked Retinitis Pigmentosa: Ancillary Outcomes of the DHAX Trial. Supplementation of DHA significantly elevated blood DHA levels and reduced the rate of progression in final dark-adapted thresholds and visual field sensitivity.