EPA & DHA Explained & Why You Need Them

EPA & DHA Explained & Why You Need Them

The moment you begin paying attention to what you eat you will quickly find that trying to adhere to dietary guidelines can be an anxiety inducing experience. How do you know what you need and how much? Here we will look at two important omega’s and what they mean to your overall health goals.

According to the World Health Organization, chronic degenerative conditions now account for the most health threats worldwide. For the first time in recorded history more humans are dying due to chronic, and possibly preventable conditions than to trauma, infectious diseases, and any other cause. Because diets have shifted significantly over the past twenty years, so too has overall human health. Diets rich in sugar and carbohydrates paired with a more sedentary lifestyle has led to higher risk for degenerative conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, coronary artery disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

One of the best ways to combat this shift is to increase the amount of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are naturally found in fish and shellfish. Hundreds of studies have shown that omega-3s can help avoid a wide range of diseases, like cancer, depression, autoimmune diseases and cardiovascular disease.

AA’s, EPA’s and DHA’s: Sorting It All Out

The American diet is flooded with omega-6s (as opposed to their healthier omega-3 counterparts). Our diet has shifted away from fresh veggies and fish to foods high in omega-6s, such as crackers, cookies, and corn-fed beef. Before this change the ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s was two to one. Now, most Americans eat over 20 times more omega-6s than omega-3s. This excessive amount of omega-6 fatty acids in the blood stream leads to inflammation, which plays a big role in many chronic diseases. Arachidonic acid (AA) is an omega-6 fatty acid, and the primary mediator of cellular inflammation.

So as the omega-6s (AA’s) take over our bloodstream as villainous inflammation promoters, by adding omega-3s (EPA and DHA) we can begin to restore a healthy omega-6 to omega-3 ratio or AA to EPA ratio.

How Much EPA and DHA Do We Need?

The required amount of EPA and DHA change throughout our lifespan, as does the optimal amount of each fatty acid in our diet. Children need more DHA for growth and development, with the brain, central nervous system (CNS) and retina needing a large supply of it during growth in the womb.

After the age of