Imagine a plate full of salmon and mackerel or a bowl filled with flaxseeds and chia seeds, you can easily differentiate between them, right? But, it’s not easy for all of us to tell the difference between their contents which are Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). So, if you’re curious to know the basic difference between EPA and DHA, keep reading this article!
Omega-3 is a Polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) which provides immense health benefits to all of us.1 But, what is PUFA? Let’s find it out!
PUFA basically are hydrocarbon chains with two or more double bonds (a bond formed when 2 atoms share 2 pairs of electrons). And, depending on the location of the first double bond they can be classified as either n-6 (omega-6) or n-3 (omega-3). 1The parent fatty acid of omega-3 is Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is converted to EPA and DHA.2 And, studies suggest that we humans can convert only a small quantity of ALA i.e. 2 to 10% into EPA or DHA.3
So, as our body is able to convert only a tiny amount of ALA, we must obtain omega-3 from diet or supplements.4 Now, let us see how EPA and DHA can be differentiated from each other!
The main difference between EPA and DHA is the length of their fatty acid chain. EPA contains 20 carbons and 5 double bonds, while DHA has 22 carbons and 6 double bonds. Here’s how the chain looks like:5
Simple isn’t it?
let's understand their benefits quickly!
Omega-3’s are mainly found in seafood such as fatty fish (salmon and tuna), vegetable oils, nuts and seeds (walnuts, flaxseeds) and leafy vegetables.6
And, consuming more EPA in the diet may be beneficial to prevent coronary heart disease, high BP, high triglycerides and certain other conditions (lung and kidney diseases, type 2 diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis).7
On the other hand, DHA is said to be the most essential form of omega-3 which accounts for about 93% of all omega-3 fats in the retina and 97% in the brain. DHA in particular also plays an important role in a newborn’s brain and eye development from the third trimester to 18 months. 8
So, in order to provide the baby with enough DHA, pregnant women are recommended to consume at least 200 mg of DHA daily.2 This can be achieved by consuming seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines, or fish oil supplements, and also vegetable oils like flaxseed, canola and soybean.8,9
And, the best part is that with a simple DHA test, pregnant and lactating mothers can measure their DHA levels quickly. Taking this test will not only help them track their DHA level, but also understand if their baby is receiving enough of this essential nutrient!
Well, we hope now you know the actual difference between EPA and DHA along with its importance for a newborn’s development! So, if you’re a pregnant or lactating mom, we bet you’d be curious to track your DHA levels. And, if that’s on your mind, how about you order an at-home DHA test kit? Check out LifeCell’s OmegaScore kits which are specially curated for pregnant and breastfeeding moms!
LifeCell’s OmegaScore - P will allow you to measure omega-3 DHA levels in the blood during pregnancy with just one prick. On the other hand, LifeCell’s OmegaScore - N helps evaluate the DHA levels in lactating moms with just a few drops of breast milk.