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Does DHA Work?

Does DHA Work for Heart Health?
As an omega-3 fatty acid, DHA may also have benefits for the heart and vascular system. Although most studies focus on DHA and EPA together (usually in the form of fish oil), there is a little research that suggests that DHA alone may also be beneficial.
One study showed that DHA may work quite well for high triglycerides (known medically as hypertriglyceridemia), lowering triglycerides by as much as 20 percent. However, it may also slightly increase LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) as well, by about 8 percent.
Research suggests that fish oil (which contains DHA along with other active components) may prevent cardiovascular disease (including heart attacks and strokes). In people who have already had a heart attack, fish oil may decrease the risk of another heart attack and the risk of death. Additionally, taking fish oil after an angioplasty procedure or bypass surgery might help keep the blood vessels from closing back up. It is not clear if taking just DHA provides these same benefits.
Does DHA Improve Mental Health?
Researchers have noticed that diets high in omega-6 fatty acids but low in omega-3 fatty acids (such as DHA) may increase the risk of depression or other mental health problems. The typical American diet fits this description, with a low intake of fish. Early studies suggest that taking fish oil (which contains DHA as well as other active components) may help antidepressants work better and that fish oil may improve depression associated with bipolar disorder. However, early studies suggest that these findings may not apply to just DHA (without the other active components of fish oil).

Final Thoughts on DHA Effectiveness

DHA may have numerous health benefits, although more studies are necessary to know for sure. In particular, it is not clear if DHA provides the same benefits as fish oil, especially for cardiovascular health. If you are interested in using DHA for medicinal use, it is a good idea to discuss this with your healthcare provider.
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