October 9, 2017

441 EPA not DHA [9 Oct 2017]

The two most important Omega-3 essential fatty acids for our health are Ecosapentanaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexanoic Acid (DHA). Both are found in fish oil supplements. As I alluded to in a column last month [#438 Nutrients for Mental Health] EPA is the critical one for mental health.

EPA has been found to be the more effective of the two for depression. A meta-analysis published in 2011 in J Clin Psychiatry found that supplements with an EPA:DHA ratio of 3:2 or higher with doses of 200 to 2,000 mg per day were effective in treating depression, and the higher the ratio, the more effective it was. A 2013 study in Eur Neuropsychopharmacol found that EPA but not DHA improved depression symptoms in adults already taking antidepressant drugs. Another study found that fish oil worked better than Prozac for depression, but both together worked better than either alone.

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is another condition where Omega-3’s show promise. An Australian study published in J Dev Behav Pediatr in 2007 found significant improvement in attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. A review and meta-analysis published in 2011 in J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry found a modest but significant reduction in ADHD symptoms with Omega-3 supplementation and concluded that because of its “benign side-effect profile” it “may be reasonable to use omega-3…to augment …pharmacologic interventions or for families who decline other psychopharmacologic options”. Another study [J Atten Disord 2009] found that after 6 months of Omega-3 supplementation, 47% of the children in the study had a reduction of ADHD symptoms to near normal. Of 12 studies on high EPA supplementation for ADD, 11 showed positive results. Of five studies using DHA, only one showed a positive result, and that showed improvement in only 7 of 16 possible markers.

Dr. Philip Rouchotas, ND, of Bolton Naturopathic Clinic in Ontario finds that 1,000 mg of omega-3 daily of a 2:1 ratio fish oil with works best for most conditions but mental health and mood disorders require a higher EPA:DHA ratio with 1,000 mg of EPA. He prefers capsules to liquid as the oil is better protected from oxidation. Rouchotas also finds that the ethyl ester form works as well as the triglyceride form, is less expensive, and allows much higher potency per capsule.

Most of the fish oil supplements in my store are slightly higher in EPA than DHA or at best 2:1. A new line I just brought in has a general purpose 2:1 ratio formula and a higher 10:1 ratio formula with 1,000 mg EPA for healthy mood balance.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

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