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Docosahexaenoic acid, better known cervonic acid or simply DHA, is an omega-3 essential fatty acid. Chemically, it is a carboxylic acid, which is found in fish oil. It is metabolized to form metabolites known as docosanoids, which comprise several families of potent hormones. DHA is a major fatty acid that is present in sperms, brain phospholipids, and also the retina. Eicosapentaenoic acid is another omega-3 fatty acid, also known as icosapentaenoic acid or EPA. It is a polyunsaturated fatty acid, obtained from fish, who in turn get it from algae. Before we go on to the EPA DHA ratio, let us try to understand why these two acids are so important for the human body.
Health Benefits
DHA and EPA both are very important for normal functioning of human cells. The two acids enter the membranes of cells, and help them work and grow properly. They help with many regular cellular processes, like normal development of neurons and their functioning, cell to cell communication, regulation of inflammatory responses in the body, and ensuring the electrical stability and metabolism rate in the body. Furthermore, these two components lower the risk of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy. They are applied in treating autoimmune diseases, and are also beneficial for heart health.
Best EPA DHA Ratio
One needs to know that there is no final and ideal EPA to DHA ratio. Although the physicians for Optimal Heart and Brain Health claim that an EPA DHA ratio of 40/20 is recommended, it really depends on the needs of the body. There are certain conditions where a person may require more of EPA, while certain conditions may require more DHA. Hence, the required ratio will vary depending on the need of the body. However, research has shown that fish oil and its supplements that are high in DHA and relatively low in EPA had a tendency to lower the inflammatory cytokines in the body, such as IL-6 and IL-1β. These are the cytokines that are associated with neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases. Furthermore, it has been seen that the brain normally contains very high amounts of DHA but practically no EPA. There are certain neurological conditions that are associated with very low levels of DHA in the body. These include dementia, Alzheimer's disease, bipolarity disorders, etc.
Thus, if you are taking omega-3 fatty acid capsules to complement your diet as a daily measure to meet the requirements of the body, the recommended EPA DHA ratio for normal, healthy people ranges from 1:2 to an extreme of 2:1. However, some prefer to go for the safe option of 1:1. If a person is suffering from certain mental conditions, and hence needs to take supplements for that purpose, then 5:1 is favorable. Omegabrite, a fish oil supplement company founded by Harvard researchers concludes that EPA/DHA ratio of 7:1 is good for brain functioning and overall health. As per Stephen Kopecky, professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic, a ratio of 3:2 or vice versa has shown heart benefits as per research. Hence, one should decide the dosage and ratio required, based on several tests, and a prescription by a healthcare provider.
Interestingly, it has been found that EPA is a precursor to DHA. This is the reason why it is harder for absorption, because of the extra metabolic work required to synthesize it. There are also certain medical conditions, like diabetes or certain allergies, that may significantly limit the body's capacity for metabolizing EPA from alpha linoleic acid.
This was all about the ratio of EPA/DHA and the significance of these omega-3 acids in the body. In the end, one needs to make sure that they are taking the right amount in the diet, so as to ensure that they derive maximum benefit from both constituents.
Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is solely for informative purpose and not intended to replace the advice of medical experts.