What is the Difference Between EPA DHA and Omega 3

The main difference between EPA DHA and omega 3 is that EPA is a type of omega 3 that reduces cellular inflammation, and DHA is a structural component of the human brain, cerebral cortex, skin, and retina, whereas omega 3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid important in lipid metabolism.

EPA, DHA, and omega 3 are three types of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Moreover, α-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA,) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the three types of omega-3 fatty acids.

Key Areas Covered

    1. What is EPA
      • Definition, Features, Importance
    2. What is DHA
      • Definition, Features, Importance
    3. What is Omega 3
      • Definition, Features, Importance
    4. Similarities Between EPA DHA and Omega 3
      • Outline of Common Features
    5. Difference Between EPA DHA and Omega 3
      • Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

DHA, EPA, Omega 3EPA DHA vs Omega 3 - Comparison Summary

What is EPA

EPA is one of the three types of omega-3 fatty acids. It contains a double bond, three atoms away from the terminal methyl group in its chemical structure. EPA occurs in oily fish; for example, cod liver, herring, mackerel, salmon, menhaden, and sardine. In addition, it occurs in various types of edible algae, or in supplemental forms of fish oil or algae oil. Generally, the main function of EPA is to act as a precursor for prostaglandin-3 (which inhibits platelet aggregation), thromboxane-3, and leukotriene-5 eicosanoids.

What is the Difference Between EPA DHA and Omega 3

Figure 1: EPA

Furthermore, EPA reduces heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular death. In addition, EPA is beneficial for heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), menstrual pain, menopause, Raynaud syndrome, lupus, and other conditions.   

What is DHA

DHA is another polyunsaturated fatty acid and a type of omega 3. It is also a primary structural component of the brain, cerebral cortex, skin, and retina. DHA directly occurs in maternal milk (breast milk), fatty fish, fish oil, or algae oil.

Compare EPA DHA and Omega 3 - What's the difference?

Figure 2: DHA

Moreover, DHA is important in the development of eye and nerve tissues. In addition, DHA might also reduce the risk of heart and circulatory disease. In general, DHA decreases the thickness of the blood, reducing swelling (inflammation), and lowering blood levels of triglycerides. It is also used for boosting memory and thinking skills, for helping infant and child development, for certain eye disorders, and for many other conditions.

What is Omega 3

Omega 3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that reduces the amounts of triglycerides in the body, lowering the risk of death, heart attack, and stroke. Other than that, omega 3 helps in regulating heart rhythms, lowering the risk of arrhythmia and atherosclerosis. It has an anti-inflammatory effect as well. However, omega 3 cannot be produced by the human body; hence, it has to be taken into the body through the diet or as supplements

EPA vs DHA vs Omega 3

Figure 3: Omega 3

The three main forms of omega 3 are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In general, ALA occurs in plant oils while DHA and EPA occur in fish oil and algae oil.

Similarities Between EPA DHA and Omega 3

  • EPA, DHA, and omega-3 are polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • They mainly occur in oily fish and algae.
  • Moreover, all are important in preventing heart disease.

Difference Between EPA DHA and Omega 3

Definition

EPA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is found along with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in cold-water fish, including tuna and salmon; DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is a primary structural component of the human brain, cerebral cortex, skin, and retina, while omega 3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid characterized by the presence of a double bond, three atoms away from the terminal methyl group in its chemical structure.

Occurrence

Usually, EPA and DHA occur in fish oil and algae oil while omega 3 occurs in oily fish.

Significance

EPA reduces cellular inflammation, and DHA is good for brain health while omega 3 is important for heart disease and stroke.

Conclusion

In brief, EPA and DHA are two types of omega 3 fatty acids while ALA is the third type of omega 3 fatty acid. The main structural feature of omega-3 fatty acids is the presence of a double bond, three atoms away from the terminal methyl group. Functionally, EPA is important in reducing cellular inflammation, and DHA is vital in brain health, and omega 3 is important in heart disease. Therefore, the main difference between EPA DHA and omega 3 fatty acids is their functional significance. 

References:
  1. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Mount Sinai Health System. (n.d.). Retrieved August 24, 2022.
  2. (n.d.). Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): Overview, uses, side effects, precautions, interactions, dosing and reviews. WebMD. Retrieved August 24, 2022.
  3. Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, August 20). Omega-3 fatty acid. Wikipedia. Retrieved August 24, 2022.
Image Courtesy:
  1. EPAnumbering ” By Edgar181- Own Work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
  2. DHA numbers ” By Timlev37 – Own Work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
  3. Omega-3-Fettsäuren als Softgel” By net – Own Work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things

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