Difference Between EPA and DHA

Main Difference – EPA vs DHA

There are two types of Omega-3 [(n-3)] fatty acids known as EPA and DHA and they have been linked to healthy aging throughout life. Many people believe that all fats are bad and that make you obese. This is not true; you need certain amounts of fat in your daily diet to keep your body healthy. Therefore, it is important to understand which type of fat is healthier than the others.

One must understand the difference between EPA and DHA in order to understand this. EPA or Eicosapentaenoic acid [20:5(n-3)] is a carboxylic acid with a twenty carbon chain and five cis double bonds. Hence the first double bond is positioned at the third carbon from the omega end it is known as omega-3 fatty acid. In contrast, Docosahexaenoic acid or DHA [22:6(n-3)] is a carboxylic acid with a 22-carbon chain and six cis double bonds with the first double bond positioned at the third carbon from the omega end. This is the key difference between EPA and DHA fats. Both EPA and DHA fats are associated with positive health outcomes and these fats can help keep your body functioning healthily.Difference Between EPA and DHA - EPA vs DHA Comparison Summary

What is EPA

EPA stands for Eicosapentaenoic acid; this is an omega-3 fatty acid. It inhibits platelet aggregation, and it has strong anti-inflammatory properties. The human body converts alpha-linolenic acid to EPA, but the conversion efficiency is very poor. Naturally, it is synthesized from maternal milk (breast milk), fish oil or algae oil. These fats are highly susceptible to oxidation. When polyunsaturated fat-rich foods exposed to the atmosphere, they are susceptible to further oxidation and rancidity.

Key Difference - EPA vs DHA

What is DHA

DHA stands for Docosahexaenoic acid (also known as cervonic acid) that is an omega-3 fatty acid. It is a major structural component of the human brain, cerebral cortex, skin, sperm, testicles, and retina. It is mainly derived from alpha-linolenic acid. It is synthesized naturally from maternal milk (breast milk), fish oil or algae oil. These fats are highly susceptible to oxidation. When polyunsaturated fat-rich foods exposed to the atmosphere, they are susceptible to further oxidation and rancidity.

Difference Between EPA and DHA

Difference Between EPA and DHA

The differences between EPA and DHA fat can be classified into following categories.

IUPAC name

EPA:  (5Z,8Z,11Z,14Z,17Z)-5,8,11,14,17-icosapentaenoic acid

DHA: All-cis-docosa-4,7,10,13,16,19-hexa-enoic acid

Number of Carbons and Double Bonds

EPA: 20-carbon chain and five cis double bonds; The first double bond is located at the third carbon from the omega end.

DHA: 22 carbons and two double bonds.

Chemical Formula and Molar Mass

EPA:

  • Chemical formula: C20H30O2
  • Molar mass: 302.451 g/mol

DHA:     

  • Chemical formula: C22H32O2
  • Molar mass: 328.488 g/mol

Dietary Sources

EPA: Fish oil from cod liver, mackerel, herring, salmon, menhaden and sardine, and different types of edible seaweed and phytoplankton are sources of this fat. It is also found in human breast milk and microalgae.

DHA: Salmon and menhaden fish oil, Salmon, red (sockeye), filets with skin, smoked (Alaska Native), Beef, variety meats and by-products, seal meat, and human breast milk are rich in DPA.

Health Aspects

EPA: EPA is associated with various health benefits.

  • Reduce the risk of cancer development
  • Prevent cardiovascular disease, platelet aggregation and hypertension
  • Help to reduce LDL cholesterol (Bad cholesterol) and increase HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol)
  • Have anti-inflammatory qualities
  • Reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Brian development in small children

DHA: DHA are associated with various health benefits. They are;

  • Reduce the risk of cancer development, cardiovascular disease
  • Reduce LDL cholesterol (Bad cholesterol) and increase HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol)
  • Reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Brian development in small children
  • Important for fetal development, cardiovascular function, neuronal, retinal, and immune function and Alzheimer’s disease

References:

Dunstan JA, Mitoulas LR, Dixon G, Doherty DA, Hartmann PE, Simmer K, Prescott SL. The effects of fish oil supplementation in pregnancy on breast milk fatty acid composition over the course of lactation: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatr Res. 2007;62:689–94.

Harper M, Thom E, Klebanoff MA, Thorp J Jr., Sorokin Y, Varner MW, Wapner RJ, Caritis SN, Iams JD, Carpenter MW, et al. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation to prevent recurrent preterm birth: a randomized controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol. 2010;115:234–42.

Lazzarin N, Vaquero E, Exacoustos C, Bertonotti E, Romanini ME, Arduini D. Low-dose aspirin and omega-3 fatty acids improve uterine artery blood flow velocity in women with recurrent miscarriage due to impaired uterine perfusion. Fertil Steril. 2009;92:296–300.

Su KP, Huang SY, Chiu TH, Huang KC, Huang CL, Chang HC, Pariante CM. Omega-3 fatty acids for major depressive disorder during pregnancy: results from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Clin Psychiatry. 2008;69:644–51.

Image Courtesy:

“DHA numbers” By Timlev37 (talk) – Based on FILE:DHA.svg (Public Domain) via

“EPAnumbering” By Edgar181 – Own work (Public Domain) via

About the Author: Geesha

Geesha has a BSc (Hons) degree in Food Science and Technology and Master's degree in Food and Nutrition. She is currently reading for her PhD in Food science and technology. Sharing what she learned is a passion of hers and enjoys writing.


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