When you hear anything about fish oil, the acronyms EPA and DHA always come up. But what do these terms actually mean? EPA and DHA are short for eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid which are fatty acids found in omega-3 oils. They can be considered the building blocks for healthy fat. These building blocks play important roles in the human body. We can’t make them, so instead EPA and DHA must come from your diet from cold-water oily fish, and fish oil supplements.
EPA – The range of benefits of EPA and DHA are well researched. Triglycerides are a type of fat, which, when the levels get too high in the blood, can increase your risk of heart disease. Along with a healthy diet and exercise, EPA from fish oil has the ability to lower triglycerides and thus keep your heart in tip-top condition. EPA also has anti-inflammatory properties, which make it not only beneficial for our blood vessels but helps us protect our joints, too.
DHA – DHA is the most abundant omega-3 fat in your brain. Food and supplements containing DHA can help keep your brain healthy. This is particularly true as we get older, as the levels of DHA in the brain begin to decline with age. DHA also plays a very important role during early pregnancy and child development. By adding in DHA to a pregnant mother’s diet, this can really help the developing fetus’ brain and eye health. Similarly, whilst growing children need a good source of DHA for optimal development of its brain.
A combination of EPA and DHA is always preferred as this is how omega-3 fatty acids are found in nature. According to research, there’s a “optimal” ratio since EPA and DHA have different functions in the body. Therefore your ratio should reflect the goals you have for your health. For example, if you’re looking to reduce inflammation from stress, diet or exercise, then having more EPA will be of benefit. But, if you’re looking to help with eye and brain health or for child development, a product with more DHA may be preferable.
In summary, EPA and DHA are important from keeping your eyes healthy to supporting the health of your joints. Ensure you get enough EPA and DHA from your diet and from high-quality fish oil supplements.