The two most important omega-3 essential fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid, better known as EPA, and decosahexaenoic acid, better known as DHA. Some products contain twice as much EPA as DHA, and some products contain up to twice as much DHA as EPA. Here is how to tell which ratio is best in helping you meeting your natural health objectives.
More EPA than DHA for Cardiovascular Health
If your objective is supporting heart health, you will probably be better off with a product that contains about twice as much EPA as DHA. This is the ratio used in most studies that found a protective benefit of fish oil against cardiovascular disease.
More DHA than EPA for Nervous System Health
On the other hand, DHA is more important than EPA fatty acid for the eyes and brain, especially in children. If your concern is supporting recovery from depression (see omega-3 for depression), bipolar disorder, or lazy eye syndrome (amblyopia), then you are better of using a product that contains more DHA than EPA.
More Fatty Acids Per Capsule Is Better, Too
It is also better to buy products that contain at least 600 mg of total omega-3 essential fatty acids (EPA + DHA), whether they contain more EPA or more DHA. When you buy a product that contains at least 600 mg of essential fatty acids in a 1,000 mg capsule, there simply is not a lot of room left for impurities.
Some low-quality products contain as little as 180 mg of omega-3 essential fatty acids per 1,000 mg capsule, making them three times as expensive (in terms of available nutrients) and far more likely to trigger allergies or stomach upset.
Choosing a Omega-3 EPA/DHA Supplement
How can you use this information to distinguish among products? Among the leading brands of good-quality fish oil supplements:
Trilogy Sea Logix provides 400 mg of EPA and 200 mg of DHA in a 1,000 mg capsule. It's the right ratio for cardiovascular support for people who do not consume a lot of plant oils.
OmegaBrite provides 350 mg of EPA and 50 mg of DHA in a 500 mg capsule. EPA and DHA in a ratio of 7:1 is good for people who consume lots of naturally health flaxseed oil.
Flaxseed oil contains ALA, which the body can convert into DHA (women more efficiently than men). Nearly 70 per cent of the contents of the capsule is essential fatty acids, indicating a high degree of purity.
Nordic Naturals provides 350 mg of EPA and 250 mg of DHA in a 1,000 mg capsule. It's the right ratio for cardiovascular support for people who consume some healthy plant oils, but not a lot.
If you aren't taking any omega-3 essential fatty acids at all, your first concern should not be getting the right ratio of EPA to DHA. Your first concern should be making sure you start getting the essential fatty acids your body needs. Then as you replenish your body's omega-3's, you can choose among products to match your diet and your health objectives.