What EPA and DHA ratio to look for in an omega-3 supplement?
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are two types of omega-3 fatty acids to look for in your omega supplement. Once you know you have EPA and DHA in your omega-3 supplement, the ratio of EPA:DHA is the next important step.
EPA is more effective than DHA at balancing out the ratio of inflammatory to anti-inflammatory chemicals in the body. Therefore, if using omega-3 fatty acids to bring down inflammation in the body, you want a ratio of approximately 5:1 EPA to DHA. What is an inflammatory condition? Most chronic diseases have an inflammatory component to them, but specific health issues that result from inflammation include: arthritis, psoriasis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, endometriosis and fatty liver disease. DHA does have anti-inflammatory effects in the body and actually works at a broad range of inflammatory receptors. Therefore, you want to keep a certain level of DHA in the supplement, rather than go for a full EPA supplement.
Another benefit to EPA over DHA is the impact on mood disorders. EPA is effective at reducing symptoms of depression in those diagnosed with a major depressive disorder. Interestingly, DHA supplements or combined supplements with <60% EPA were not effective at reducing symptoms. Therefore, at least at 3:1 EPA to DHA is recommended when using omega-3 fatty acids to reduce depressive symptoms
Brain Growth and Development:
Although most adults with chronic disease will likely benefit from a high EPA omega-3 fatty acid, there are some populations which may benefits from a 1:1 ratio or even a higher DHA ratio. DHA is essential for brain and eye development, which occurs in the third trimester of pregnancy and the first few years of life. Therefore, those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should ensure an adequate intake of DHA. Consuming DHA during pregnancy may also reduce the risk of pre-term birth according to a 2016 study. DHA is also important during early childhood years.
Both DHA and EPA have several benefits and are used best together, however, for certain instances, a higher ratio of EPA or DHA may be preferable.