Omega 3 is vital throughout your life, but whether you require more EPA than DHA depends on what you’re taking it for.

The benefits of EPA Omega 3

From calcium for young bones to folic acid for healthy pregnancies, our nutritional requirements vary as we age. But no matter what your age or stage of life, your body still needs a plentiful supply of Omega 3. This important nutrient can build brain cells and plump up skin and we only get it through the food we eat.

But while Omega 3 is great whether you’re young or old, there is one thing that changes as we age - the balance of EPA and DHA our bodies require.

Omega 3 actually consists of two fatty acids called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). It’s only quite recently we’ve been able to understand the role EPA and DHA play individually in the body. Scientists now have the technology to separate the two, enabling them to investigate how each one works and their discoveries have been fascinating.

So what is EPA Omega 3 and what is it good for? Read our mini guide to find out.

What is EPA Omega 3 and what does EPA stand for?

EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid and it’s one of the fatty acids in Omega 3. Found in oily fish, EPA is considered a highly unsaturated fat because it contains six and five double bonds on its long, structural chain. These polyunsaturated fats play a very important role in our bodies - they’re vital for both brain function and cell growth. But the important thing to remember is that although EPA is vital, our bodies can’t make essential fatty acids on their own, you can only get them from the food you eat.

What’s the difference between Omega 3 EPA and DHA?

According to Jackie McCusker, nutritional therapist at the University of Westminster’s Be Well London clinic, “EPA and DHA work together to help every cell function.”

EPA is known to be more fluid, while DHA is known to give cells more structure and because of its concentration in the brain, it’s been shown to be useful for neuron health.

How does EPA work with DHA?

While they may do different jobs, EPA and DHA work well together. No wonder they’re often found side-by-side in nature, in the bodies of oily fish for example.

To understand what good team players they are you only have to take a look at their roles in the brain. When it comes to your grey matter, DHA primarily plays a role in developing neurons, while EPA is crucial for chemical signalling between brain cells.

Another example would be your skin, where DHA helps build soft, moist skin cells in the phospholipid bilayer.

Read our guide to DHA here

What’s the best ratio of EPA and DHA?

While both have their roles to play, whether you require more EPA than DHA depends very much on what you’re taking them for.

“The requirement for each individual is different, dependent upon on their stage of life,” says nutritionist Jackie McCusker. “For example, if they are pregnant their requirement for DHA will be more significant because DHA is needed for the development of the growing baby.”

The good news is that EPA and DHA don't compete with one another for absorption. DHA is a by-product of EPA and uses different enzymes in the metabolic pathway.

What’s the best EPA Omega 3 supplement you can take?

The best EPA Omega 3 fish oil supplement is one that contains a clinically high dose of active ingredients. That’s because most of the EPA Omega 3 benefits you’ll read about have come out of medical trials. The doses they use are normally much, much higher than typical fish oil supplements.

One tiny teaspoon of clinical strength Lion Heart from Bare Biology has 2,000mg EPA and 1,000mg DHA and is the only product on the market that gives you this in a single spoonful, meaning you don’t have to take handfuls of lower quality capsules per day.

So will EPA really help me?

From your skin to your brain, upping your levels of EPA can help keep you healthy. Of course, eating more oily fish like salmon or sardines can boost your Omega 3 levels. But if you don’t like the taste, or are worried about contamination found in farmed fish, a good quality fish oil supplement is an easy way to ensure you’re getting a good dose of this nutrient.