EPA and DHA: importance of consumption patterns


Studies have shown that the increased intake of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from fish oil supplements is linked to reductions in cardiometabolic markers, improvements in overall health and cardiovascular and metabolic disease prevention. On previous occasions, we have talk about the importance of amounts, purity and concentration of these kind of supplements (and will do so again); now is the time to talk about patterns of consumption.

As we already knew, consumption schedule influences bioavailability (the degree and rate at which a substance is available where it can exercise its physiological activity) of EPA and DHA. There are differences in incorporation into blood plasma and cells with the supply of identical amounts of EPA and DHA, but consumed intermittently (e.g. twice a week) or continuously (the same amount divided into daily amounts): EPA and DHA enrichment in platelets and blood mononuclear cells (the parameter considered the best long-term marker for changes in consumption) is higher with continuous consumption compared to the same amount consumed intermittently.

Now, we also know that the improvements in cardiometabolic markers achieved with EPA and DHA from fish oil supplementation are only maintained with continuous supplementation. That is the conclusion at which canadian scientists arrived after performing a study in young adults with normal levels of these markers. The results of this study demonstrated that reductions experienced with the daily consumption of fish oil were quickly lost upon cessation of supplementation, suggesting that improvements in cardiometabolic markers are only maintained with continuous supplementation.

These data emphasise the benefit of frequent consumption and suggest that the same dose of EPA and DHA consumed sporadically might not reach the concentrations required to obtain the health benefits observed with continuous supplementation.