What is EPA?

Do you know what’s in the supplements you’re taking? Is there a long list of multi-syllable words on the back of the bottle that you’ve never heard of? If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, it makes sense to look it up and find out if it’s beneficial to your body.

Eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA for short, is one of those nutrients that’s hard to say, but it’s loaded with health benefits. EPA is one of the essential omega-3 fatty acids, and it’s found in cold water fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines. Along with DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), these long-chain fatty acids are thought to improve our quality of life and our growth and development. EPA is believed to regulate behavior and mood, whereas DHA is considered a building block of tissue in the brain and retina and is necessary for normal eye and brain function.1

  • EPA has anti-inflammation properties
  • Is considered beneficial for reducing risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Is thought to reduce the risk of stroke
  • EPA can be found in quality fish oil supplements

How do you know if you’re getting too much or too little EPA in the food you eat? Although scientists say EPA can be found in some vegetarian foods such as nuts, beans and dark, green leafy vegetables, this vital fatty acid is only present in small quantities. It can be tricky to get adequate amounts of EPA from fish sources, especially if you prepare the food incorrectly (such as deep frying), which can degrade the nutrients, or if you aren’t sure of the source. It’s important to take a high quality fish oil supplement that contains the proper balance of EPA and DHA for maximum potency.

Benefits of EPA

So why should you consume products containing EPA? Studies have shown that people who have a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids are at risk for developing fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression and poor circulation.2 Scientists have been studying the health benefits of eicosapentaenoic acid for many years and their findings in a range of conditions from anxiety to pre-natal development have been very impressive.

  1. EPA and anxiety.

    Anxiety is a common mental health disorder characterized by nervousness, fear, apprehension and constant worrying. Medical professionals warn that severe anxiety can greatly diminish one’s quality of life, as the sufferer may frequently experience heart palpitations, chest pain, tingling in the arms and legs and dark thoughts. Research shows that fish oil supplements rich in EPA can reduce the symptoms of anxiety. In a 2008 study on participants who were substance abusers, the subjects were given two grams of EPA per day to determine if the fatty acid would diminish their chronic worry and apprehension. At the conclusion of the study, researchers noted a significant drop in the participants’ anxiety compared to those patients receiving a placebo. In other studies with normal individuals who showed no sign of clinical depression or anxiety, increased consumption of EPA improved their ability to handle stress and showed a marked enhancement in their mood.3

  2. Osteoporosis.

    EPA is thought to play a crucial role in improving bone strength. According to health experts at the University of Maryland Medical Center, studies suggest that people who don’t consume enough essential fatty acids, particularly EPA and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), are more likely to experience bone loss than those with normal levels of this fatty acid. In a study of women over 65 with osteoporosis, those who took EPA and GLA supplements had less bone loss over a three-year period than those who were given a placebo.4OmegaMx, a high quality fish oil supplement, contains 840 mg of EPA delivered in an enteric coated softgel for maximum absorption.

  3. EPA can boost your mood.

    As mentioned above, eicosapentaenoic acid is thought to regulate behavior and mood. Scientists believe EPA is very effective for fighting the symptoms of depression, such as lack of interest in daily activities and an impending sense of dread and doom. During a British study, a group of patients diagnosed with depression were given a daily dose of EPA. At the conclusion of the three month study, more than two thirds of the group reported a 50 percent reduction in their feelings of sadness and negativity, inability to work, sleeplessness and low sex drive.5

  4. Keep inflammation in check with EPA.

    Scientists set out to determine if eicosapentaenoic acid is useful for fighting inflammation, which is a chronic condition leading to a host of health ills, such as rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis and psoriasis. During the study, laboratory mice were fed either EPA or linoleic acid and their inflammation response was monitored. It was concluded that an EPA-rich diet results in a significant suppression of inflammation.6

  5. EPA is effective for lowering LDL cholesterol levels.

    Even though studies have shown that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil have heart-healthy benefits, EPA in particular has been found to significantly lower levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or the “bad” cholesterol. One study of 110 healthy participants compared the effects that EPA and DHA supplements have on cardiovascular fitness. During a six-week period, the subjects were given supplements containing EPA and DHA and an olive oil placebo. In the EPA group, there were significant reductions of LDL cholesterol levels, whereas the DHA group showed an increase in LDL cholesterol.7

In addition to the above health challenges, EPA is thought to be beneficial for healing wounds after surgery, treating psoriasis, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke, minimizing hot flashes during menopause, and treating bipolar disorder.8

Even though eicosapentaenoic acid can be a mouthful, it’s a mouthful that has been shown to enhance health and wellness. You don’t need a degree in chemistry to know which quantity works best for your body. A high quality fish oil supplement will provide a unique blend of EPA and DHA for maximum absorption.


References

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18072818
  2. http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/omega-3-000316.htm
  3. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-zone/201201/anxiety-and-omega-3-fatty-acids
  4. http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/omega-3-000316.htm
  5. http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200301/omega-3s-boosting-mood
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17724224
  7. http://www.theheart.org/article/1229499.do
  8. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-994-EPA%20%28EICOSAPENTAENOIC%20ACID%29.aspx?activeIngredientId=994&activeIngredientName=EPA%20%28EICOSAPENTAENOIC%20ACID%29
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