EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid is one of the three main omega-3 fatty acids. The body can only convert a limited amount of EPA from the omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), so it is important to get enough EPA from food or from dietary supplements.
Omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA, have numerous benefits for our bodies, brains and hearts. Omega-3s are said to reduce inflammation in the body, thus keeping the body from developing many chronic and autoimmune diseases. Getting more EPA and DHA from the diet can help lower triglyceride levels, therefore decreasing the risk of heart disease. EPA promotes healthy blood flow and is essential for normal brain and heart functions. Through its participation in the production of anti-inflammatory molecules, it has anti-inflammatory properties. EPA also participates in supporting intestinal barrier integrity and can modulate the adaptive immune response, especially antiviral. EPA serves as a precursor for compounds needed for example to support healthy respiratory function.
It can help reduce many symptoms of chronic low inflammation, which is known to drive several common illnesses. EPA may also affect many aspects of cardiovascular function. Moreover, it can help alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual pain, menopause and lupus syndrome.
A diet rich in EPA is said to lower our risk of developing chronic illnesses such as heart disease. The omega-3s DHA and EPA are mostly found in fish and other seafood whereas ALA mainly comes from nuts (e.g. walnuts), seeds (e.g. flaxseeds, chia seeds) and plant oils (e.g. canola oil, flaxseed oil, etc.). Foods rich in EPA include fatty fish (e.g. salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovy, trout), shellfish (e.g. crab, mussels, oysters) and fish roe. However, as the famous saying goes: all in moderation. Taking exceeding doses of EPA through dietary supplements can lead to side effects such as digestive discomfort, bad breath, heartburn and nausea.
Athletes also benefit from sufficient EPA intake. High-intensity exercise generates free radical compounds which in excess, lead to an inflammatory state. Healthy levels in omega-3 EPA support proper anti-inflammatory processes to reduce inflammation. Various studies suggest that DHA and EPA may be beneficial for athletes’ performance by improving endurance capacity and delaying onset of muscle soreness.
In conclusion, our EPA levels impact many aspects of our mental and physical health. In order to make sure that your EPA levels are balanced and steady, make sure to test your levels and to evaluate how you can make the right changes to rebalance your body and mind.