EAT FAT, GET FIT
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines may not be perfect, but they did get one thing right: The struggle to insert more omega-3 essential fatty acids into American diets is real. The guidelines recommend consuming 8 ounces of seafood that is low in methyl mercury per week. For pregnant women, they upped the dose to 12 suggested ounces. While we’re ecstatic that EPA and DHA (the most efficient omega-3s) were acknowledged and agree that naturallyoccurring sources are the best way to power up, omega-3 supplements can also be very effective and allow more control over dosage of EPA and DHA individually. So what’s the difference, anyway? Gerard Bannenberg, PhD, the director of compliance and scientific outreach at the Global Organization of EPA and DHA, provided this non-exhaustive list of unique traits.
DHA is the most abundant polyunsaturated fatty acid in the central nervous system (brain), while EPA is found in very low amounts there. DHA can be transformed to EPA, however, EPA is not efficiently converted to DHA when measured in the circulatory system. DHA offers protection to liver cells from the cell-damaging effects of alcohol, yet EPA enhances the toxicity of alcohol in these cells. That does not mean that omega-3 intake enhances or lowers the toxicity of alcohol on the liver—it is all dose-dependent and more complicated in a real person. EPA but not DHA can prevent fibrosis in a heart failure model in mice. In healthy men, EPA lowers serum total cholesterol, but DHA does not. DHA may induce an increase in serum HDL-cholesterol, whereas EPA does not. Both EPA and DHA can support anti-inflammatory effects, albeit in different organs. Omega-3 intake may offer anti-depressant activity when it consists of at least 50 percent EPA, whereas DHA does not seem to contribute to anti-depressant activity. The efficacy seems restricted to major depression and bipolar disorder, not mild depression.