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Is DHA Safe?

Since DHA is commonly found in supplements and baby formula, it is important to question, "Is DHA safe?" There is some concern that DHA supplements derived from fish may contain toxins, so be sure to purchase DHA from a reputable manufacturer. Also, talk to your healthcare provider if you have high blood pressure or a bleeding disorder before taking DHA.

DHA Safety: An Overview

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid often used in supplements and infant formula. You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking DHA if you have:
 
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
 
  • Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
  • Breastfeeding.
     
You should also be sure to tell your healthcare provider about all other medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
 

Specific DHA Safety Warnings and Precautions

Warnings and precautions to be aware of concerning the safety of DHA include the following:
 
  • There is some concern that DHA supplements derived from fish may contain toxins such as heavy metals (like mercury) or dioxin, although it seems that taking DHA supplements may actually be safer than eating fish in this regard. Look for a DHA product from a reputable manufacturer. It is a good sign if a manufacturer abides by the rules of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for drugs. It is also a good sign if a product has the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) seal, which means that the product has been independently tested and shown to contain the correct ingredients in the amounts listed on the label. Your pharmacist is a good resource for information about which manufacturers are most reputable. DHA from non-fish sources is probably less likely to have such problems.
     
  • Fish oil (which contains DHA along with other active components) can "thin" the blood, although it is not clear if DHA alone also possesses this activity. If you have a bleeding disorder, do not take DHA without checking with your healthcare provider.
     
  • DHA can interact with some medications (see DHA Drug Interactions for more information).
     
  • DHA that is free of toxins is probably safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women (see DHA and Pregnancy and DHA and Breastfeeding).
     
  • Some people allergic to fish or shellfish may also be allergic to DHA supplements (if the supplements are derived from fish).
     
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