EPA and DHA are two important healthy fats in your body, but what do they do? Should you be supplementing them?
With how beneficial these fats are, you may miss out by not including them in your diet. However, there are some important facts to consider in order to maximize their capabilities.
Depending on your health needs, you may see surprising benefits from including one or both of these nutrients in your daily nutrient intake, but it is important to know how much you should take.
What Are EPA and DHA?
EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid and DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid. These nutrients are two of three common omega-3 fatty acids, and they have important roles in the body, making them essential to your health. Omega-3s are considered some of the key building blocks in the body because they make up cell membranes.
Although these fatty acids are commonly associated with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a third omega-3, ALA does not promote nearly as many health benefits. ALA is an abundant part of our diets and does not require any supplementation. Both EPA and DHA can be created by the body using ALA, but the body converts such small amounts that it is necessary to get DHA and EPA through diet or supplementation instead.
What Are the Benefits of EPA and DHA?
EPA and DHA are both beneficial and essential. Both of these fatty acids play important roles in several bodily systems, and inadequate intake of EPA and DHA can lead to negative health effects. Despite often being a package deal, EHA and EPA are actually quite different in the benefits they offer.
EPA supports various key processes in the body, and works to support signaling molecules, called eicosanoids. These molecules are crucial for proper functioning — for example, EPA can help support a healthy heartbeat and healthy blood pressure.
EPA also plays a key role in supporting overall emotional wellness, as it can help maintain cognitive function and brain health.
Meanwhile, DHA is mostly known for its important role in making up cell membranes and serving as a foundational component in parts of the body. DHA is found in its highest concentrations in the brain and the eyes, specifically in the retina. Because DHA is such a vital building block, this fatty acid is crucial to obtain during fetal development and throughout childhood.
Because of its position in the brain, DHA also plays an important role in cognitive function. In combination with EPA, DHA can help support a healthy memory and motor skills, especially as you age. Both of these nutrients work to support healthy aging. These two nutrients also support an array of additional benefits, like helping to maintain heart health and supporting your joints.
Where Can I Get EPA and DHA?
Despite how important these two nutrients are, there are, unfortunately, very few sources of omega-3s, especially in your everyday diet. However, there is a very popular source that contains both — fish. Both of these nutrients are found in fatty, oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna. Two servings of fish a week can provide you with both of these nutrients.
However, not everyone has the time or desire to cook a piece of salmon twice a week — and those who do not include fish in their diet may be missing out entirely. Fortunately, you can obtain both of these fatty acids through convenient supplements. The two most popular supplements for these nutrients are fish oil and krill oil. You can take either of these supplements by the capsule or in liquid form.
Still, many people dislike the smell of fish or avoid eating fish due to a plant-based lifestyle. Fortunately, algae-based supplements provide a lesser-known but just as effective option. This aquatic plant is rich in both EPA and DHA, and as a fish favorite meal, algae is actually the source of these omega-3s for fish.
So not only do you get to avoid fishy breath from this supplement, but you also get to obtain your omega-3s straight from nature’s source.
Should I Take Both EPA and DHA?
These two nutrients are almost always found together, which makes it easy to take both. Besides, due to the extensive benefits of both EPA and DHA, there are plenty of reasons to take both, especially because they both offer unique benefits. Many people prefer to take both EPA and DHA as they age because they are both beneficial for supporting healthy function almost everywhere from the brain to the joints.
However, a recent study has raised concern that high DHA levels may weaken the impact of EPA's positive heart health benefits. Consequently, it may be smart to avoid taking higher levels of DHA if your needs are met by the benefits of EPA.
Ultimately, if you hope to gain the benefits of both DHA and EPA, then it is a good idea to take both. Although, you may want to pay extra close attention to the ratio you are taking to ensure you get the full benefits. Make sure to talk to your doctor to see which nutrients make the most sense for your healthcare case.
How Much EPA and DHA Should I Take?
The most common recommendation is that you should obtain between 250 and 500mg of combined EPA and DHA per day, regardless of your source. Some medical professionals recommend higher amounts for people dealing with cardiovascular health concerns.
Now, if that’s how much you should take combined, does it matter how much of each one you take?
Since they both have separate benefits, it may be helpful to know what ratio of the two you should get through your nutrition. A strong majority of supplements include slightly more EPA than DHA, but there can be some wide variability. For many people, the preferred ratio depends on the benefits they are looking for.
For example, if your goal is to support your cognitive function, it may make more sense to prioritize DHA over EPA. On the other hand, if you want to focus more on heart health, then it may be better to aim for a ratio with a higher EPA intake. To account for the potential that DHA can diminish the benefits of EPA, you may want to choose a supplement with a higher concentration of EPA.
For a supplement that provides you with considerable amounts of both EPA and DHA, try iwi life’s algae-based omega-3 supplement. This supplement provides balance with a ratio of 1.5:1 EPA to DHA. Two softgels a day provide you with a grand total of 500mg combined EPA and DHA. Not only that, iwi life’s formula includes polar lipids that improve your body’s absorption of the two nutrients, allowing you to get better use of them and see the benefits faster.
If you want to focus on one more than the other, we also offer a supplement that is solely EPA and another that contains only DHA. It’s always a great idea to discuss your needs with your doctor to determine which approach is best for you and your health.
Get the Omega-3s You Need
Both DHA and EPA have several great benefits, and there is something to be said for including both of them in your daily diet. However, the ratio you need may depend largely on your specific health needs. It’s always smart to talk to your doctor and see what works for you.
If you aren’t getting either of these vital nutrients in your diet, then it is a good idea to start for that extra support. At iwi life, we make it easy to get started with our all-natural algae-based omega-3 supplements. With the option to choose EPA-specific, DHA-specific, or combined supplements, iwi life puts your specific wellness needs first. Try iwi life for yourself and start seeing the benefits.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids EPA and DHA: Health Benefits Throughout Life | PMC
Docosahexaenoic Acid and Cognition throughout the Lifespan | PMC
HIGHER DOCOSAHEXAENOIC ACID LEVELS LOWER THE PROTECTIVE IMPACT OF EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID ON LONG-TERM MACE IN THOSE WITH AND WITHOUT ANGIOGRAPHIC CAD | JACC