If you’re health conscious and want to make sure that your health is not sidelined when it comes to food, chances are that you’ve probably come across EPA and DHA. If you want to know more about EPA and DHA, you’ve come to the right place, because we’re going to give you the lowdown on these two nutrients, why they are so good for you, and just how they can boost your health.
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) are essential fatty acids THAT are typically Omega 3 fats found in cold water fish. They are polyunsaturated fats and play numerous important roles. Here’s a look at how these fatty acids can help us become healthier and sharper and lead a better quality of life:
- Building blocks of the brain – Our brain is comprised of fatty tissue, and the building block of this tissue is DHA. DHA helps in the formation of neural transmitters such as phosphatidylserine, which is very important for the brain to function properly.
- Found in the retina – DHA is also found in the retina of the eye and it’s important that we consume enough DHA as it helps promote better eye function.
- Heart health – For the heart to function properly, there should be good blood flow, and the nutrients that promote healthy cardiovascular function are DHA and EPA because they get converted into prostaglandins, which are hormone like substances that help the heart function better.
- Pregnant women – Ideally, pregnant women who consume enough DHA and EPA can be assured that it helps in the development of the fetus’ brain. DHA and EPA in a pregnant woman’s diet largely boost brain formation in a fetus.
- Older people – As we grow older and our bodies age, our mental processes and cognitive abilities also change and are not as sharp as they are supposed to be. DHA and EPA levels begin to fall and it could slowly lead to age related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia in which a gradual loss of memory becomes most apparent. To counter this, taking DHA and EPA through food or supplements can help older people remain sharp and better focused even in their advanced years.
- Source of energy – DHA and EPA also act as sources of energy and can be very useful because of this very reason. They also prevent loss of body heat and ensure that we stay warm.
- For infants and small children – For proper development of the brain, DHA and EPA are extremely important, more so DHA. This is the reason why most infant formulas contain added DHA because in their first two years of life, DHA is very crucial for optimum development.
- Rheumatoid arthritis – Rheumatoid arthritis causes painful inflammation of the joints, and there are an increasing number of studies that indicate DHA and EPA can significantly reduce the pain, tenderness, and stiffness of joints.
- Cancer – There is a lot of evidence to indicate that DHA and EPA can help in reducing the growth of tumors and thereby prevent cancers of the breast, prostate, testicles, and ovaries. Also, patients already suffering from cancer find that their appetite is greatly improved by taking DHA and EPA supplements. Both these also prevent loss of muscle mass.
- Healthy skin – DHA and EPA are also excellent elements to keep your skin healthy and supple. They are known to prevent the skin from getting dry and flaky. DHA and EPA also help in mitigating the effects of UV rays or overexposure to the sun.
Sources of DHA/EPA
The best known sources of DHA and EPA are cold, deepwater fish that are found in the ocean. These include tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies. However, one must not eat too much fish in the hopes of consuming the recommended dose of DHA and EPA. Overeating fish can bring about its own set of handicaps, particularly as the pollution levels today have reached new heights. Fish that live in polluted waters have been found to have harmful traces of mercury, arsenic, and other heavy metals in their bodies.
Vegans and vegetarians need not despair about getting enough DHA and EPA, because if they eat enough nuts and seeds and ensure that they consume algae like marine phytoplankton, they can get their required dose of these two essential fatty acids.
The other best option is to rely on supplements such as capsules that can offer all the benefits of DHA and EPA. There’s also the option of consuming fish oil and its supplements since these also provide DHA and EPA in the right quantities.