EPA ad DHA – What’s the Difference?


Both EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are important types of omega-3 fats. These fatty acids have different roles and actions within your body. How much you need of each one changes throughout your lifetime. Therapeutic use of omega-3 differs too. Specific ratios of EPA and DHA are suggested at varying levels according to the health concern or conditions being treated.

In this video, Dr. Low defines the difference between EPA and DHA in fish oil.

Where does EPA and DHA Come From?

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) have a chemical link to fat structures scientists call triglycerides. We get these fatty acids from cold water fish and shellfish mainly, but they can also be found in a few plant foods too, namely:

  • Flaxseeds
  • Walnuts
  • Canola oil
  • Seaweed

These plant foods don't actually produce EPA or DHA, but they contain an omega-3 fatty acid called alphalinolenic acid (ALA). Once inside the human body, ALA converts to EPA and DHA (the latter to a much lesser extent).

Certain foods are fortified with omega-3 fatty acids too (milk, yogurt, eggs and bread…). Still, EPA and DHA are limited in plant foods and fish are a polluted food source nowadays. For these reasons, most people prefer to get their omega-3s intake with quality fish oil or krill oil supplements.  We need these polyunsaturated fats because they play important roles in many bodily functions. Other, lesser known health benefits derived from EPA and DHA include:

  • Provides a source of energy
  • Insulates your body against heat loss
  • Prevents your skin from drying and flaking
  • Cushions tissues and major organs

Further Reading

If you're more in to the scientific review of omega-3 fatty acids, you will find the resource below of interest. Here you can find a plethora of referenced summary articles on omega-3 fats.

Scientific Overview of Omega-3

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