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A comparison of EPA and DHA and their ability to fight inflammation

A comparison of EPA and DHA and their ability to fight inflammationInflammation appears to be a key factor in the majority of chronic illnesses such as e.g. rheumatism, type-2 diabetes, and cancer. Science has primarily focused on EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), but new research points to supplementation with DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) as being even more effective in healthy patients with too much abdominal fat and subclinical systemic inflammation.

Subclinical inflammation not only causes local pain but even increases the risk of atherosclerosis and ischemic heart disease, which is atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries and the leading cause of death in western countries.
The two omega-3 fatty acids, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are found mainly in oily fish and fish oil supplements, help to counteract subclinical inflammation by lowering various plasma proteins and regulating levels of certain lipids in the blood.
It turns out that EPA and DHA have various mechanisms of action that work against inflammation in the cardiovascular system, and although the difference has not yet been mapped out, science has come one step closer to understanding it.

DHA regulates both inflammation and blood sugar

In a recent study that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a group of scientists investigated the difference between EPA and DHA in relation to various plasma proteins (CRP, IL-6, IL-18, and TNF?), all of which are biological inflammation markers. The study was carried out on 123 people who had too much abdominal fat. Also, they had subclinical inflammation, a condition that can be determined through the presence of the above mentioned inflammation markers. All participants were given supplements of EPA for 10 weeks, followed by a nine-week wash-out period without supplementation to clear the body's content of EPA. Afterwards, the participants were supplemented with DHA for 10 weeks. A control group was given corn oil, which contains omega-6. The study revealed that supplementing with DHA resulted in a larger reduction of pro-inflammatory proteins and higher levels of adiponectin, which is involved in the regulation of blood sugar and the breakdown of fatty acids.

DHA, blood sugar, insulin, and inflammation

Many people with large waist circumference and too much dangerous visceral fat (fat around the organs) have insulin resistance and problems with their blood sugar levels, which is an early stage of type-2 diabetes. Therefore, DHA's role in regulating blood sugar levels is highly relevant for this group of people, as insulin resistance and elevated insulin levels are contributing factors in subclinical inflammation.

DHA reduces more pro-inflammatory proteins than EPA

The study revealed that DHA supplements lowered levels of all pro-inflammatory plasma proteins (CRP, IL-6, IL-18, TNF?) significantly, while EPA only had a significant impact on levels of IL-6. The results were independent of the sex of the participants.

DHA regulates blood cholesterol levels

Also, the study showed that DHA was more effective than EPA at lowering levels of LDL (Low-Density Protein), the potentially harmful compound. In addition, EPA increased levels of HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein), which is considered beneficial. It is worth making a note of the fact that reduced levels of HDL are particularly dangerous in connection with metabolic syndrome, the condition that is also characterized by insulin resistance, hypertension, and elevated levels of triglycerides.
More and more research points to DHA as being more effective than EPA when it comes to reducing systemic inflammation and regulating levels of HDL and LDL in people with too much abdominal fat.


Fanni R Eros. Comparing the effects of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids in the reduction of inflammation. Medical News Bulletin. June 2016

Pernille Lund. Sådan får du styr på dit blodsukker og din vægt. Ny Videnskab. 2016

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