Plenty of research exists as to why essential fatty acids are important, so why doesn’t everyone eat fish or find another method for consuming essential fatty acids? Is it because of cost, availability, convenience, lack of awareness, vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, or some other reason?
Let’s look at the two most beneficial omega 3’s backed by extensive research---EPA and DHA. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are omega-3 essential fatty acids very difficult to pronounce, so good thing they have simple acronyms we can refer to instead! They are found in fish and fish oil and although they work together in the body, each fatty acid has very unique benefits. Let’s take a look at each of them.
Research shows EPA is an anti-inflammatory and also improves heart health, immune function, and circulation, and reduces joint pain. Because of this, EPA is very beneficial for autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, including arthritis, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease. Research shows fish oil reduces triglycerides, supports healthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and may prevent heart attacks. The American Heart Association recommends people with heart disease consume a minimum of 1 gram of combined EPA and DHA per day, and those with high triglycerides consume 2-4 grams per day.
DHA is essential to brain function throughout life. It improves learning and memory, reduces depression and anxiety, is essential for healthy infant and child development, and uniquely benefits the brain and nerve cells. DHA also improves eye health. During pregnancy and the first years of a child’s life, DHA is essential for the development of the brain, eyes, nervous system, and immune system.
EPA and DHA are both very beneficial in different ways. Choosing to consume higher amounts of one fatty acid over the other may depend on what your health focus is. Experts recommend 500-1000 mg EPA+DHA per day to maintain health and avoid deficiency. Therapeutic doses of EPA+DHA range from 1 to 4 grams per day. To support the body’s anti-inflammatory response, clinical studies suggest a minimum of 3 grams of EPA and DHA. Read the supplement facts on the product to know how much individual EPA and DHA you are getting.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RD
Nutritionist for Healthy Goods