Difference Between EPA and DHA


The difference between EPA and DHA stems from the length of the fatty acid chain of these two. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are two well-known long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids belonging to Omega-3 family. Both EPA and DHA fatty acid deficiencies are commonly seen among humans when compared to other fatty acids deficiencies. EPA and DHA can be produced by healthy human body under normal conditions, with the presence of LNA, but the production rate is very slow. Because of the inefficiency of the production of EPA and DHA within the body, humans need to obtain these essential fatty acids through their diet. EPA and DHA are very important for the development of brain and eye during the embryonic and childhood development. Also, these fatty acids are necessary for the proper functioning of the immune, respiratory, reproductive, and circulatory systems. Moreover, EPA and DHA are important as structural components of all cell walls and precursors to essential regulatory prostaglandins and other eicosanoids. In nature, EPA and DHA are generally found together. The main sources of DHA and EPA are fish oil, seafood including crabs, clams, lobsters, oysters, shrimps, and other crustaceans.

What is EPA?

The polyunsaturated fatty acid chain of EPA contains 20 carbons and five double bonds, and the chain is shorter than DHA. Like DHA, EPA is also obtained mainly from fish oil and other seafood sources. However, fish do not produce EPA but obtain EPA through the consumption of algal species. Apart from the fish oil, humans can also obtain EPA through commercially available microalgae. Certain studies have proven that EPA may be used in treating depression and has the ability to improve mental conditions.

Difference Between EPA and DHA

What is DHA?

DHA is the longest fatty acid with 22 carbons and six double bonds, and belongs to the Omega-3 class. Owing to its long chain fatty acids, DHA is the most vulnerable fatty acid subjected to destruction and damage due to the oxidation from free radical. This is the reason for which fish oils and other DHA rich sources have very short shelf life. The individuals who do not consume meat and eggs have a low supply of DHA. Hence, most vegetarians are asked to take adequate DHA through the available synthetic drugs. Those who suffer from DHA deficiency show insufficient brain and vision development in infants, visual impairment and blurring, abnormal electroretinogram, impaired learning abilities, numbness in fingers, hands toes and feet, and neurological disorders. These neurological disorders include depression, Alzhermer’s disease, memory loss, etc., and certain behavior disorders including addictions, alcoholism, violence, aggression, etc.


What is the differencebetween EPA and DHA?

• Structure of EPA and DHA:

• DHA is the longest of the long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid with 22 carbons and six double bonds.

• EPA contains 20 carbons and five double bonds.

• Length of the fatty acid chain:

• DHA chain is longer than EPA.

• Source:

• Fish oil, seafood such as crabs, clams, lobsters, oysters, shrimps, and other crustaceans.

• Vegetarians have to take synthetic drugs and commercially available microalgae.

• Intake:

• Enhancing the intake of DHA will result in an increase of EPA.

• However, enhancing the intake of EPA levels does not increase DHA levels in the body.

• Vulnerability:

DHA is more vulnerable than EPA because of its long chain fatty acids. Due to this, DHA rich sources have very short shelf life.

Images Courtesy: EPA and DHA via Wikicommons (Public Domain)