EPA Vs. DHA – The Ultimate Guide to the Different Types of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

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When it comes to improving your quality of life, one invaluable tool is fish oil supplements. Fatty fish with the omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fats they carry can do a lot to improve your health. However, you might not know that there are different forms of omega-3.

Because not all of these fatty acids are created equal, omega-3 supplements always list the type and quantity of omega-3s they contain. Specifically, there are ALA, EPA, and DHA. These last two forms of omega are the most important ones. So, here’s an EPA vs. DHA showdown to let you know what’s what!

Everything You Need to Know About the Components of Fish Oil

As we mentioned earlier, capsules of fish oil usually contain any combination of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

While we’ll be focusing exclusively on EPA vs. DHA, please remember that ALA is more common in dietary sources like vegetable oil and flax oil. Also, the body readily converts alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) to DHA and EPA.

Even though EPA and DHA are, without a doubt, highly beneficial to the body, it’s essential to understand the differences. The main reason for this is that that information will help you determine which health benefits you want to achieve. With that knowledge, you can use the positive effects of fish oil omega-3s EPA and DHA to the fullest.

Let’s look at the distinct effects that DHA and EPA have on the human body.

epa vs. dha

Fish Oil Omega-3s EPA

This type of omega-3 fatty acid possesses anti-inflammatory effects and improves certain aspects of brain health.

EPA is also essential in the prevention of certain health conditions. For example, its impact on chronic low-grade inflammation, and its action against pro-inflammatory proteins in the body, is significant because chronic inflammation is a known driver of several diseases.

Also, dietary supplements with high concentrations of fish oil EPA significantly reduce the symptoms of depression.

While DHA-rich fish oil supplements have been shown to have a similar effect, a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover study showed that fish oil-based EPA omega-3s had a more significant beneficial effect in this area.

Healthy adults can get a good dose of EPA from animal foods like salmon, sturgeon, and eel and supplementation.

DHA-Rich Fish Oil Supplements

DHA-rich fish oil or fish meal is a critical component in promoting smooth skin development and the proper function of the retinas in your eyes.

When DHA-rich oil supplements and arachidonic acid are used to fortify baby formula, they help encourage superior eyesight in the child through better development.

It is hard to overstate the impact on proper brain development because a few clinical trials have confirmed that DHA deficiency can cause children’s cognitive health impairments and even aggression.

In addition to its vast benefits to heart health, cardiovascular benefits, and cognitive functioning, some studies show DHA helps treat arthritis.

Other studies have suggested that DHA may also have potential benefits in treating high blood pressure, certain types of cancer, and diabetes.

DHA is more commonly found in organisms at the bottom of the food chain like algae. Several fatty cold-water fish also carry this fatty acid.

epa vs. dha


Now that we know more about these omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, let’s highlight the difference between taking EPA-rich fish oil or servings of fish rich with DHA.

To do this more efficiently, we’ll be looking at which one has a more beneficial impact during certain stages and activities in life.

During Pregnancy

Servings of fish with higher content of DHA or fish oil supplement with these fatty acids will be more beneficial.

As we’ve established, the positive effects of DHA on fetal development are outstanding. In addition to fostering optimal brain development, it also makes sure the child has a healthy weight and protects against cardiometabolic diseases later in life.

For Enhanced Physical Activity

For people who want to become more physically active, EPA-rich oil supplementation is the way to go.

Following findings from the Reduction of Cardiovascular Events with Icosapent Ethyl-Intervention Trials (REDUCE-IT trial), Harvard Medical School health professionals have confirmed that EPA helps the heart get more out of exercise.

It also keeps you in good shape by regulating blood triglyceride levels. Finally, EPA-rich oil supplementation can also help you exercise for longer as it decreases muscle soreness.

For Increased Cognitive Health

DHA is considerably better for alleviating cognitive decline and reducing other problems, like brain fog. A double-blind trial also showed that DHA-rich fish oil supplements might also help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

One of the positive effects of DHA-rich supplements are so pronounced is that DHA has significant protective capabilities for cognitive functioning.

To Improve Mood

According to a leading contributor from Harvard Medical School, omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA, can considerably brighten the mood.

Another randomized control study showed that eicosapentaenoic acid could significantly contribute to the recovery of depressed individuals.

Clinical studies suggest that EPA-rich fish oil can encourage a better mental health status because it can easily replace the diminished supply of ω3 PUFAs that trigger many mood disorders.

For Better Heart Health and Healthy Aging

While the kind of results that these two types of omega-3 fatty acids provide here are equal, it’s easy to argue that both EPA and DHA are beneficial for this population.

Although there’s concrete evidence that the EPA has more benefits to heart health than DHA, clinical studies haven’t fully established whether this difference is enough to make the former preferred over the latter. Taking omega-3 supplements of either type is beneficial.

In addition, there isn’t any distinguishable difference between these two compounds in ensuring healthy aging.

Which Do You Go For?

In the EPA vs. DHA showdown, there’s no real winner. While one compound will undoubtedly trump the other in certain areas, this doesn’t change that they’re both extremely beneficial.

But if you have to choose, DHA is a better option for pregnant people and those looking to improve cognitive function. On the other hand, EPA is excellent for athletes and people who want to improve their mood.

However, you’re still going to get great health benefits no matter which way you go!

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