Should You Take DHA for Cardiovascular Health -- or Just Eat More Fish?

Cleveland Clinic experts evaluate this supplement for your heart.

Numerous studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids — particularly EPA and DHA, found in fish oil — support heart health. Now the American Heart Association (AHA) is recommending that Americans boost their consumption of EPA and DHA — through supplements, if necessary, since getting the higher daily recommended amounts is difficult through diet alone. Should you take this supplement? Experts on the Cleveland Clinic Prescriptive Wellness Committee weigh in on the pros and cons:

On the Pro Side: Sara Spanuolo, MD, of the Department of General Anesthesiology at the Cleveland Clinic, agrees with the American Heart Association’s recommendation. She says that DHA increases HDL (good) cholesterol and decreases LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, which are especially harmful to the arteries. DHA also improves the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which may reduce the risk of developing diabetes and coronary heart disease. She also points out that DHA is derived from algae, making it an excellent option for people who do not eat fish, whether due to allergy or dietary preference.

On the Con Side: Other doctors on the committee don’t advocate using DHA supplements, thinking you’re better off getting your mixture of EPA and DHA from fish oil, a far less expensive option that also lowers triglycerides and raises HDL cholesterol.

Committee Conclusion: Experts on the Cleveland Clinic Prescriptive Wellness Committee believe that DHA is a safe and effective product, but unless you choose DHA from algae due to allergy or dietary reasons, fish oil is a more cost-effective source. Note that DHA may interfere with medications that affect blood clotting. If you do elect to try it, remember to include it in your list of medications when you visit your doctor and other health care providers.

-- Let Cleveland Clinic help you stay heart healthy
-- Find other good-for-you vitamins and supplements
-- Learn more about omega-3s and other good fats

Learn more
-- High Cholesterol Spotlight
-- 30 Cholesterol-Lowering Tips from the Cleveland Clinic
-- 7 Foods That Lower Cholesterol

NEXT... Should You Take Garlic Supplements for High Cholesterol?

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