DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), and a normal component of the human diet. The average human diet contains insufficient PUFAs which come from fish oils (such as tuna), fatty fish, shellfish, marine mammals and organ meats. Increased vitamin E intake has been determined to be necessary when increased amounts of PUFAs are consumed.
Various microalgae, such as Ulkenia sp., are sources of DHA and DHA algae oil contains 45% DHA. The mean intake of DHA is 0.7 g/person/day and the 90th percentile intake is 1.5 g/person/day. Other marine DHA-algae oils come from Crypthecodinium cohnii and Schizotrichium sp., which are parts of the natural human food chain. Populations in Japan, Norway, South Africa and the Portuguese island of Madeira consume 0.5 to 0.7 g/day of fish and marine PUFAs.
Yellow fat disease is seen in animals treated with fish oils containing DHA, especially when the vitamin E intake is low. This disease occurs in domestic and wild animals on diets high in PUFA and low in vitamin E. Increased liver and spleen weights without pathologic changes are seen in animals treated with DHA.
The present study evaluated the toxicity of DHA and possible genetic toxicity. Rats were treated daily with doses from 0 to 2000 mg/kg., daily. Extensive blood tests, neurologic testing, eye exams, gene testing, urinary testing and autopsies were done.
Changes in blood tests seen with algae oil are similar to those seen with fish oil treatment. There were weight gains from the fat calories consumed. No chromosomal abnormalities were seen from the use of DHA on cells studied. Animals which are fed vegetable oils, fish oils and DHA oils commonly develop increased size of liver and spleen and cardiomyopathy. These changes are considered to be adaptive rather than pathologic.
CONCLUSION: DHA from algae oil is a safe dietary form of DHA without adverse effects and without gene toxicity. There was some increased body weight due to the increased oil calories consumed.
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