Algal DHA

Algal DHA

Docosahexaenoic acidQ Does the algae form of DHA have the same benefits as fish oil DHA?  How many milligrams per week of algal DHA do you recommend for healthy, active young vegans? There seems to be a lot of research supporting the value of DHA in the human diet, and I want to make sure I’m getting enough. 


There is no difference between DHA from algae and DHA from fish oil chemically. I question the delivery system. DHA from algae is obtained in a lab. The conditions are usually very clean. The DHA from fish oil can be contaminated. In a lawsuit coming out of California, the compound polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) was found in extremely high levels. PCB can cause rashes, skin and ocular lesions, sores and even liver damage. You should know that fish which are farmed are now receiving antibiotics for the diseases caused by the close contact in the ?farm?, just like other livestock.
There is a lot of controversy on whether or not vegans need to supplement with DHA. Some studies point to the lack of evidence that DHA increases the health of vegans. What we do know is that DHA is needed for colon and eye health. Low DHA levels have been seen in some autistic boys and is being studied in connection with Alzheimer’s. So, you have to make up your own mind. I have heard many vegan nutrition experts be on either side of this aisle.

As to how much, most experts I consulted suggested 100-300 mg per day. Most of the supplements I see on the market begin at 300 mg per capsule. Many of the dosages on the label are for 2 capsules a day. My personal take is that if you feel you need to take this supplement, you only need the 300 mg/d.

You can also get DHA from 2 tablespoons of flax meal and a healthy dose of green leafy veggies. I would rather get my nutrition from food. However, I travel a great deal and many times do not have control over my foods. I supplement during those times, especially. There is a product, Flax Packs, which has the 2 tablespoons in the packet. Just make sure you finish the contents by the end of the day. Flax oil, which is the ingredient in the flax meal you want, is very volatile and will go rancid quickly.

Dark green leafy vegetables also contains the precursor for DHA. So, I have my greens every day. Plus, greens are yummy, so what?s not to love. I err on the side of caution and take my DHA on a daily basis, especially when I am on the road or in the winter when the greens in my neck of the woods can look pretty wilted. But, now that spring kale is coming up in my garden I may just stick to the 3-4 cups of daily greens and flax on my salad and in my pancakes. Eating your way to health is no controversy.

Marty Davey

Author: Marty Davey

Marty Davey is a Registered Dietitian and has a Masters degree in Food and Nutrition from Marywood University. She became a vegetarian in 1980 when she discovered that the French didn't want our meat products due to factory farming methods and began studying nutrition while cleansing her diet to a totally plant-based lifestyle. She has a private practice specializing in assisting clients transitioning from the conventional Western foods to a plant-based regime.

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