Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)


Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is a member of the omega-3 family of fatty acids. Although EPA can be consumed directly by eating certain kinds of fish, it is also produced in the body from the conversion of alpha linolenic acid (ALA). EPA is a precursor for agents in the body that provide anti-inflammatory activity, (1) enhance the immune system, thin the blood, and lower blood pressure.

The richest dietary sources of EPA are the oils from cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and other marine animals.

Dosage Info

Dosage Range

170mg to 3.6 grams of EPA daily, or 3 to 12 grams of fish oil concentrate daily.

Most Common Dosage

1-2 grams of EPA daily.

Dosage Forms

Capsules and tablets.

Interactions and Depletions


Reported Uses

EPA has been associated with many potential health benefits. Support of cardiovascular health is first on the list. More specifically, EPA may reduce the occurrence of angina attacks. (2) This benefit is probably related to EPA’s blood-thinning properties. EPA may also be able to help the heart maintain a steady rhythm by positively affecting its electrical activity. (3) EPA may help the body lower harmful triglyceride levels in the blood stream. (4) , (5) Triglycerides are a contributing factor to atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases. EPA may also lower blood pressure in people with moderate hypertension. (6) One study measured the impact of omega-3 fatty acids on the elastic nature of the arteries. Both EPA and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were evaluated and compared to a group taking only a placebo (sugar pill). The measure of elasticity study is called systemic arterial compliance (SAC). When SAC is low, the arteries are less elastic, which may be a sign of cardiovascular disease. Compared to placebo, EPA increased SAC 36% and DHA increased SAC 27%. (7)

Studies suggest that increased intake of fish oils containing EPA may decrease incidences of asthma in children. (8) EPA may provide treatment for a number of skin disorders including eczema, psoriasis, and lupus. (9) , (10) , (11) It may also decrease inflammation associated with Crohn’s Disease. (12) , (13)

When used in combination with DHA, which is another omega-3 fatty acid, EPA may help support health in people with diabetes. (14) EPA deficiency has also been noted among diabetics. (15) Consumption of fish oils that contain EPA and DHA may also inhibit the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. (16) This anti-inflammatory benefit may extend to the treatment of colon inflammation, often referred to as colitis. (17) , (18)

Studies suggest that the omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish oils (EPA and DHA) exhibit mood-stabilizing properties in patients with bipolar disorder, which is also known as manic depressive illness. EPA and DHA seem to behave in a manner similar to lithium carbonate and valproate, which are medications frequently used to treat this disorder. (19) Researchers found that bipolar mood disorder patients had lower levels of EPA than control subjects and that supplementation may be beneficial to the patients. (20)

Animal studies have noted that EPA has decreased cancerous tumor size. (21) And, clinical trials indicate that eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) provided substantial benefits for patients with schizophrenia when taken alone or with antipsychotic medications. The researchers concluded that EPA may represent a new treatment approach for schizophrenia. (22) A study found that schizophrenic patients had significantly lower levels of EPA than control subjects and that patients may benefit from supplementation of antioxidants and essential fatty acids. (23)

Toxicities & Precautions


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People who take supplemental EPA are advised to take additional antioxidants, especially vitamin E, to protect against free radical damage to EPA in the body. (24)

Side Effects

People who take a fish oil form of EPA may experience belching that causes a “fishy” odor

Pregnancy / Breast Feeding

To date, the medical literature has not reported any adverse effects related to fetal development during pregnancy or to infants who are breast-fed. Yet little is known about the use of this dietary supplement while pregnant or breast-feeding. Therefore, it is recommended that you inform your healthcare practitioner of any dietary supplements you are using while pregnant or breast-feeding.

Age Limitations

To date, the medical literature has not reported any adverse effects specifically related to the use of this dietary supplement in children. Since young children may have undiagnosed allergies or medical conditions, this dietary supplement should not be used in children under 10 years of age unless recommended by a physician.


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