Docosahexaenoic acid

January 27, 2020
You’re likely to use me as a nutritional supplement.
What molecule am I?
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Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a member of a group of natural compounds known to many as omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3 (or ω-3) designation means that there is a double bond at the third carbon atom from the far end of the hydrocarbon chain. All six double bonds in DHA have the cis (Z) configuration, in contrast to fatty acids with trans double bonds.

DHA exists widely in the human body, particularly in the brain, skin, and retina. It is therefore not considered to be an “essential” fatty acid, such as α-linolenic acid (ALA) or linoleic acid, which the body cannot synthesize. Nevertheless, many dieticians recommend consuming external sources of DHA such as fish, algae, and dietary supplements. Supplementation is especially desirable for vegetarians and vegans.

The first recommended use of DHA as a supplement was for pregnant and lactating women. Recently, Wei Yang and collaborators at three medical research institutions in Beijing sought ways to overcome brain defects in newborn mice caused by Zika virus infections. They found that treating Zika-infected mice with DHA shortly after birth caused the mice to develop larger, heavier brains than control mice. The authors concluded that “our data might provide some potential therapeutic clues for [Zika] infections in pregnant women.”

Docosahexaenoic acid hazard information

GHS* Hazard class Hazard statement
Flammable liquids, category 4 H227—Combustible liquid

*Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.

Docosahexaenoic acid
fast facts

CAS Reg. No. 6217-54-5
SciFinder
nomenclature
4,7,10,13,16,19-Docosahexaenoic
acid, (4Z,7Z,10Z,13Z,16Z,19Z)
Empirical formula C22H32O2
Molar mass 328.49 g/mol
Appearance Light yellow oily liquid
Boiling point 450–500 ºC (est.)
Water solubility Insoluble
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