Get More EPA and DHA in Your Diet

~ January 2004 Number 177 ~

In a world filled with acronyms, the last thing we need is more. But perhaps it is a good idea to remember EPA and DHA. They are good for your heart health.

EPA stands for eicosapentanoic acid and DHA stands for docosohexanoic acid. EPA and DHA are much simpler to remember. The two compounds are long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids found naturally in fish oil. In chemical terms DHA is 22:6 n-3, while EPA is 20:5 n-3 ; both are omega-3 fatty acids.

One reason why the medical community is urging us to eat more fish is to increase our intakes of EPA and DHA. These two important nutrients must come from the diet. Recently published data show that the human body may not be able to synthesize DHA from shorter fatty acids. When subjects were given labelled alpha-linolenic acid - the fatty acid that should be metabolized to DHA - there was no apparent production of DHA in the blood at any time point measured up to 21d, suggesting inhibition or restriction of DHA synthesis.

Most dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids tend to decrease LDL or "bad" cholesterol cholesterol levels. However, in addition to this, DHA and EPA are associated with decreased triglyceride levels in hypertriglyceridemic patients and decreased risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD). We should not only be trying to lower our blood cholesterol levels, but also our blood triglyceride levels.

Remember, get more DHA and EPA in your diet ASAP.

Theoretical Metabolic Pathway for the Production of DHA and EPA

DHA EPA

  1. Reference
    • Burdge GC, Jones AE, Wootton SA.,Eicosapentaenoic and docosapentaenoic acids are the principal products of alpha-linolenic acid metabolism in young men. Br. J.Nutr. 2002 88(4),355-3641

 

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January 28 2016

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