Docosahexaenoic Acid Safety
Before you starting taking docosahexaenoic acid, safety warnings and precautions for the supplement should be reviewed. If you have a bleeding disorder, do not take docosahexaenoic acid without checking with your healthcare provider. It is also important to know that the omega-3 fatty acid may interact with certain drugs, and some people allergic to fish or shellfish may also be allergic to docosahexaenoic acid supplements.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid often used in supplements and infant formula. You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking docosahexaenoic acid if you have:
- High blood pressure
- A bleeding disorder
- Any allergies, including allergies to foods (especially fish), dyes, or preservatives.
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
- Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
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.
Warnings and precautions to be aware of concerning the safety of docosahexaenoic acid include the following:
- There is some concern that docosahexaenoic acid supplements derived from fish may contain toxins such as heavy metals (like mercury) or dioxin, although it seems that taking docosahexaenoic acid supplements may actually be safer than eating fish in this regard. Look for a docosahexaenoic acid product (from a reputable manufacturer) that has been purified and tested for such toxins. 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. Docosahexaenoic acid from non-fish sources is probably less likely to have such problems.
- Fish oil (which contains docosahexaenoic acid along with other active components) can "thin" the blood, although it is not clear if docosahexaenoic acid alone also possesses this activity. If you have a bleeding disorder, do not take docosahexaenoic acid without checking with your healthcare provider.
- Docosahexaenoic acid can interact with some medications (see Drug Interactions With Docosahexaenoic Acid for more information).
- Docosahexaenoic acid that is free of toxins is probably safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women (see DHA and Pregnancy and DHA and Breastfeeding).
- Some people who are allergic to fish or shellfish may also be allergic to docosahexaenoic acid supplements (if the supplements are derived from fish).