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Cardiovascular Benefits of Docosahexaenoic Acid
As an omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid may also have benefits for the heart and vascular system. Although most studies focus on docosahexaenoic acid and EPA together, there is a little research that suggests that docosahexaenoic acid alone may also be beneficial. One study showed that docosahexaenoic acid may work quite well for high triglycerides (known medically as hypertriglyceridemia). It may also slightly increase HDL cholesterol ("good cholesterol"), although it can increase LDL cholesterol ("bad cholesterol") a little as well.
Research suggests that fish oil (which contains docosahexaenoic acid 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 docosahexaenoic acid provides these same benefits.
Mental Health Benefits of Docosahexaenoic Acid
Researchers have noticed that diets high in omega-6 fatty acids but low in omega-3 fatty acids (such as the typical American diet) may increase the risk of depression or other mental health problems. Although early studies suggest that fish oil may be beneficial for depression, one study showed that taking just docosahexaenoic acid did not seem to have much of an effect.
Diabetes Benefits of Docosahexaenoic Acid
Research suggests that docosahexaenoic acid is probably not useful for the treatment of diabetes. Although people with diabetes may want to take docosahexaenoic acid for its possible cardiovascular benefits, docosahexaenoic acid does not seem to help with blood sugar.