What are the main health benefits of EPA?
The main function of EPA concerns lowering inflammation levels. EPA lowers inflammation through multiple pathways, primarily by inhibiting arachidonic acid (AA), a well-known mediator of inflammation on a cellular level. Therefore, by consuming more EPA, you’re limiting the production of inflammation-inducing AA, which is something DHA cannot do due to its size.
Furthermore, it appears that optimal levels of EPA also allow you to seize the multiple benefits of corticosteroids while avoiding their side effects, B. Sears Ph.D. confirms for Psychology Today.
When it comes to depression, brain trauma, and other issues related to brain functions, EPA has an irreplaceable role to play. EPA aids in the management of inflammation of brain cells. In addition, once entering the brain, EPA is immediately oxidized. Therefore, balanced EPA levels are necessary in order to preserve cognitive health and optimal brain functions, mostly by inhibiting inflammatory processes.
Can the body convert EPA to DHA?
Yes, our body is able to convert EPA to DHA. However, the amount of DHA received through this conversion process is minimal. This is why it’s important to choose an Omega-3 supplement that contains both EPA and DHA. Speaking of conversion rates, ALA can be converted into EPA, but once again, the results are almost negligible. As far as ALA is concerned, it cannot be manufactured via conversion and it must therefore be obtained through dietary sources.
What is DHA?
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is one of the three main types of omega-3 fatty acids. This fatty acid can be synthesized from ALA, but the amount received through this conversion is minor (only 0.1–0.5% of ALA in the body can be converted into DHA). DHA is mostly present in the membranes of cells, and it has a rather significant structural role. In addition, DHA is one of the main elements of cellular communication.
What is DHA good for?
DHA is a crucial factor in brain development, tissue growth, and function - especially in infants. Aside from brain tissue, DHA is necessary for the development of eyes in the process of fetal development. It is clear that DHA levels are of utmost importance for the development of a child in all its phases - especially in the third trimester, and the first few months of the baby’s life.
What’s more, DHA levels can determine numerous brain functions and cognitive processes in a child, including attention, problem-solving, as well as social, emotional, and behavioral development. According to a study conducted by C. Agostoni and colleagues, a DHA deficiency at an early age can be linked to cognitive issues and disorders, such as learning disabilities.
However, the importance of DHA stretches far beyond children’s cognitive development. As we age, the brain does, too, and it undergoes both physical and functional changes. Consistent, quality DHA supplementation has been associated with significant improvement in areas such as memory, learning ability, and even verbal fluency, which appears to be a frequent issue with the elderly. On the other hand, low levels of DHA have been linked to cognitive issues such as dementia.
Optimal levels of DHA are also associated with vision development and eye health. Since DHA has been found to activate an eye membrane protein, rhodopsin. This eye protein is responsible for numerous eye functions, including the thickness and fluidity of membranes, which affects the way the brain perceives the images we see. DHA is also largely present in the eye retina, optimising its fluidity, integrity, and visual function, a study on the retina and omega-3 suggests.