Recommended intake of EPA and DHA

 
 
 

Lipids (fats) are indispensable elements in the diet, both for the provision of energy and for the supply of essential fatty acids. Fatty acids are the simplest lipids, they are components of other more complex lipids. Within the group of unsaturated fatty acids (which are healthier than saturated fatty acids), the omega-3 and omega-6 families are of relevance (EPA and DHA belong to the omega-3 family, while ARA is an omega-6): they play a central role in maintaining optimal cellular function; the biological activities of these fatty acids affect health, well-being, and the risk of developing disease.

Almost every disease has some link with inflammation and some of them (for example, allergies and asthma) are even classified under the term of inflammatory diseases. New families of lipids, which include resolvins derived from EPA and DHA, and protectins and maresins derived from DHA, are being investigated because of their active role in the resolution of inflammation. These pro-resolving lipid mediators, together with lipoxins (derived from ARA), have been grouped together as “specialized pro-resolving mediators”, which are currently considered to be the explanation for the efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids in various disorders.

It is widely accepted that achieving a healthy status a balanced omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in our diet is key, but in Western societies, the intake of omega-3 fatty acids have decreased, while the intake of omega-6 has increased (this coincides with a significant increase in overweight and obesity, together with inflammation disorders). In addition, human capacity to produce EPA and DHA is limited. Therefore, sources of omega-3 such as fatty fish should be included in the human diet.

Health authorities and Government agencies recommend consuming between 250 and 1000 mg of EPA + DHA per day for adults, to maintain health and well-being. Increased amounts of up to 1 to 3-4 g/day of omega-3 fatty acids should be ingested during pregnancy and lactation or to prevent most cardiovascular, neurodegenerative and inflammatory disorders.

Two or three servings of fish per week, particularly oily fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel or sardines, can be enough to meet most intake recommendations. As larger fish (who eat little ones) may contain significant levels of potentially harmful contaminants (that concentrate in the aquatic food chain), it seems prudent to avoid consuming large quantities of higher predators. The consumption of a variety of fish species is the best option to minimize contaminants exposure and to increase omega-3 fatty acids intake. None fish-eaters, or those who just want an extra boost, may ingest omega-3 supplements from fish oil.

Bibliography

Zárate R, El Jaber-Vazdekis N, Tejera N, Pérez JA, Rodríguez C. Significance of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in human health. Clin Transl Med. 2017;6(1):25.

 
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