Omega-3: The Distinct Difference Between EPA & DHA

As one of the three macronutrients that make up our diets, fats are an important part of every balanced meal. However, with mixed messages such as “eating fats leads to weight gain” and “too much fat causes heart attacks”, adding the right amount of fat to your diet can be challenging. Not only that, there are also many types of fats to consider: unsaturated, saturated, polyunsaturated, omega-3, omega-6. To overcome the confusion surrounding fats, let’s discuss the most important type: omega-3. Unlike other fatty acids, this unique nutrient cannot be produced by the body and must come from our diet.

Preventing inflammatory diseases with omega-3

When a pathogen enters the body, acute inflammation helps your immune system locate and attack the foreign particle. However, chronic inflammation can impair your body’s ability to repair damage and scars on various organs. If your body cannot regulate the inflammation process, the risk for chronic inflammatory diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, and cancers will increase.

Omega-3 fats play an important role in regulating chronic inflammation. They act as guards to prevent the immune system from over-stimulating the inflammatory defense system.

What’s the difference between EPA and DHA?

Omega-3 fats are made up of two important fatty acids – eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). When you buy a fish oil supplement, you will notice both EPA and DHA listed in the ingredient list. EPA and DHA are the active ingredients that give fish oil its unique health benefits. EPA is known to reduce inflammation and pain, while DHA boosts brain and eye health.

The Extraordinary Benefits of EPA

Reduces inflammation

EPA is known to reduce inflammation by producing signaling molecules called eicosanoids. These compounds act as mediators to decrease the intensity and duration of the inflammatory response when it is over-stimulated. Those with inflammatory conditions caused by osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or even menstrual pain can benefit from using EPA for pain management.

Protects against heart disease

EPA has many properties that make it a great nutrient for reducing heart disease and heart attack risks. EPA:

  1. acts as a mild blood-thinner, making it harder for blood to clot.
  2. reduced blood pressure and damage to the arteries.
  3. reduces the level of triglycerides in the blood. triglycerides are fats that accumulate in the blood vessels, contributing to narrowing of the arteries.

Impaired clotting ability, high blood pressure and high triglyceride levels are three major indications for increased risk of heart attack and strokes.

Guards your cells

Each cell in your body is surrounded by a double layer of phospholipid made up of different fatty acids, including EPA. EPA helps the cell membrane remain fluid and allows substances in and out of the cells. Think of it as the phospholipids guarding the entry to each cell, while EPA makes sure the guards are doing their job properly.

The Distinguishing Benefits of DHA

Boosts your mood

When you consume omega-3 fats, DHA travels straight to the brain membrane and interacts with mood-related molecules in the brain. Studies show that DHA has promising results in decreasing the severity of many mood disorders such as postpartum depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and attention deficit disorder (ADD). On the other hand, low omega-3 consumption is associated with depression and anxiety.

Supports brain development

DHA levels are concentrated in the eye and brain. These organs rely on DHA for proper development, making it especially important during pregnancy and childhood years. For older adults, increasing DHA consumption can preserve healthy vision and memory.

Protects your brain cells

Fats are essential for a well-functioning nervous system. DHA makes up 10-20% of the fats in the brain. They are responsible for protecting the brain cells and ensuring they continue sending signals to one another. When the signalling between brain cells weaken, cognitive functions such as thinking, reading, learning, and memory will gradually be lost. Frequent consumption of omega-3 fats have been shown to decrease the risk of dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Getting enough omega-3 fatty acids

One of the oldest and healthiest diets in the world, the Mediterranean diet, focuses on eating more healthy fats from fish and olive oil, while limiting processed foods and sweets. To this day, the Mediterranean diet remains one of the most nutritious diets.

Health Canada recommends a daily minimum of 1.5g of EPA and DHA. To increase your omega-3 consumption, consider adding these foods to your diet:

  • Cold-water fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines
  • Pastured eggs, including the yolks
  • Nuts and seeds such as flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts

What to look for in an omega-3 supplement

Fish oil supplements can provide a higher dose of omega-3 compared to dietary sources. However, omega-3 fats in supplement form are prone to oxidation and rancidity in their extraction process. It is important to choose a high-quality omega-3 supplement that uses strategies to reduce the potential damage, while keeping the fish oil pure.

To prevent the oils from becoming rancid, we formulate our fish oils with a blend of vitamin C, GMO-free mixed tocopherols and green tea extracts. These powerful antioxidants protect the oil from oxidation and keep it fresh. You won’t get a fishy taste with these oils!

We have two fish oil options, both providing a therapeutic dose. Omega-Pro High DHA 1:5 and Omega-Pro High EPA 5:1 contain fish oil sustainably sourced from small, wild-caught, deep sea fish. They are IFOS certified, guaranteeing the highest quality and purity standards for fish oils in the world.

Please note: If you are taking blood pressure or diabetes medication, consult your healthcare practitioner before trying fish oil supplements.

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