EPA is the key to the benefits of fish oil not DHA says Dr Barry Sears
Dr Barry Sears is a leading expert in Omega 3 fatty acids this week he has said that the key to the mental health benefits to be obtained from fatty fish or fish oil supplements are not down to DHA but to EPA.
“Expectant mothers have always been told that fish is brain food not only for the developing child, but for the mother as well,” said Dr. Sears in a statement. “New research data questions that ancient wisdom, or does it?”
“To understand this seeming paradox requires a detailed knowledge of fish oils and omega 3 fatty acid metabolism that is not available to most medical journalists” he said.
Now we have been hearing a lot of press that women who eat a lot of Omega 3 fatty acids are less likely to develop post natal depression and their children are likely to be smarter. However, most fish oil supplements on the market contain both EPA and DHA.
Dr Sears explains that the brain contains relatively low amounts of EPA so many have mistakenly assumed that DHA must be the fatty acid responsible for the benefits to be gained from fish oil, which is why it is added to baby milk formulas. No one ever really tested that hypothesis until now says Dr Sears.
He pointed out that the October issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association carried an article about fish oil supplements high in DHA and low in EPA and therefore researchers saw no real benefit from supplementing with fish oil.
The answer according to Dr Sears “is that benefits of fish consumption or fish oil supplementation are due to the EPA, not the DHA.”
EPA is rapidly used up says Dr Sears whereas DHA is stored, which is why there is so little EPA compared to DHA in the brain.
EPA has a powerful anti inflammatory action and “it is this anti-inflammatory action that is responsible for the neurological benefits. This is confirmed by numerous studies in which DHA has little, if any benefits, in treating depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, whereas fish oils rich in EPA do have remarkable benefits” said Dr Sears.
“Eating fatty fish rich in EPA may not be the answer since those fish contain relatively high levels of pollutants, such as PCBs. On the other hand, fish oil supplements rich in EPA and with exceptional purity with regard to PCBs may be the answer.”
Dr Sears is due to give a talk at the International Fetal Symposium to be held in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico held between the 18th and 21st November 2010.