Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid with activities in both infants and adults.

The objective of the current work was to evaluate the published literature concerning the toxicological assessment of DHA-rich oils in animals and the safety profile of DHA consumption in humans. Structured literature searches concerning DHA toxicology and DHA effects on platelet function, lipid levels, oxidative potential, glycemic control, and immune function were conducted. The toxicological profile of DHA derived from single-cell organisms demonstrates that these oils are safe in rats (up to a consumption level of 3290 mg/kg body weight/d) in 90-d toxicology evaluations, as well as in reproductive and developmental toxicology studies.

The maximum DHA level in human breast milk exceeds 1% of total fatty acids in high-fish-consuming populations. Consumption of DHA-rich human milk as sole source of nutrition provides approximately 315 mg/d in infants 1-6 months of age, and appears to be a safe level of intake. DHA supplementation studies in adults have employed doses ranging from less than 1 to 7.5 g/d, and have not resulted in any consistent adverse responses in platelet function, lipid levels, in vivo oxidation parameters, glycemic control, or immune function.

In conclusion, DHA consumption does not result in consistent adverse events in infants or adults. Safe intake levels may be modeled on DHA intake from human milk in infants, and may be at least as high as the upper doses studied in adults.