EPA (EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID) Overview Information
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) is a fatty acid found in the flesh of coldwater fish, including mackerel, herring, tuna, halibut, salmon, cod liver, whale blubber, or seal blubber.
EPA is used for high blood pressure in high-risk pregnancies (eclampsia), age-related macular degeneration (AMD), heart disease, schizophrenia, personality disorder, cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and diabetes.
EPA is used in combination with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in fish oil preparations for a variety of conditions, including preventing and reversing heart disease, and decreasing irregular heartbeats; as well as asthma, cancer, menstrual problems, hot flashes, hay fever, lung diseases, lupus erythematosus, and kidney disease. EPA and DHA are also used in combination for migraine headache prevention in adolescents, skin infections, Behçet’s syndrome, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, psoriasis, Raynaud’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis.
EPA is also used in combination with RNA and L-arginine after surgery to reduce infections, improve wound healing, and shorten recovery time.
Don’t confuse EPA with DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and fish oils, which contain EPA and DHA. Most available data involving EPA are from research and clinical experience with fish oil products containing variable combinations of EPA and DHA. For more information, see the separate listings for Fish Oil and DHA.
How does it work?
EPA can prevent the blood from clotting easily. These fatty acids also reduce pain and swelling.
Possibly Effective for:
- Treating depression, when used with conventional antidepressants.
- For healing wounds after surgery and shortening recovery time, when used with RNA and L-arginine.
- Treating borderline personality disorder, a mood disorder. EPA seems to lower aggressiveness and to relieve depression somewhat in women with this disorder.
- Reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death in people with coronary artery disease (clogged heart arteries). The reduction of the risk of death is small unless high cholesterol is present in addition to coronary artery disease. In that case, taking EPA can reduce the risk of having a heart attack or other major event by up to 19%. However, taking EPA doesn’t seem to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death, which is due to an electrical malfunction in the heart.
- Symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes.
Possibly Ineffective for:
- Treatment of type 2 diabetes.
- Treating symptoms of cystic fibrosis.
- Pregnancy-related high blood pressure (eclampsia).
- High blood pressure.
- Treating asthma.
- Relieving hayfever symptoms including wheezing, cough, and nasal symptoms.
- Preventing an eye disease called AMD (age-related macular degeneration), when EPA is consumed as part of the diet.
- Reducing growths in the uterus.
- Prostate cancer. It appears that a higher level of EPA in the blood is linked with a lower risk of getting prostate cancer.
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some research shows that low blood levels of EPA and other fatty acids are linked with ADHD in children. However, it’s not known yet if taking EPA supplements can treat or prevent ADHD.
- Schizophrenia. Studies to date show conflicting results about the effectiveness of EPA in treating schizophrenia.
- Alzheimer’s disease. Research so far suggests that EPA doesn’t help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
- Menstrual disorders.
- Lung diseases.
- Other conditions.
EPA (EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID) Side Effects & Safety
EPA is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken appropriately. It is usually well tolerated. Some people, however, can experience side effects such as nausea; diarrhea; heartburn; skin rash; itching; nosebleed; and joint, back, and muscle pain. Fish oils containing EPA can cause fishy taste, belching, nosebleeds, nausea, and loose stools. Taking EPA with meals can often decrease these side effects.
When used in amounts greater than 3 grams per day, EPA is POSSIBLY UNSAFE, and can thin the blood and increase the risk for bleeding.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about using of EPA during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Aspirin-sensitivity: If you are sensitive to aspirin, EPA might affect your breathing.
High blood pressure: EPA might lower blood pressure. In people who are already taking medications to lower their blood pressure, adding EPA might make blood pressure drop too low. If you have high blood pressure, discuss using EPA with your healthcare provider, before you start taking it.
Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination
- Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs) interacts with EPA (EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID)
EPA can decrease blood pressure. Taking EPA along with medications for high blood pressure might cause you blood pressure to go too low.
Some medications for high blood pressure include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan), diltiazem (Cardizem), Amlodipine (Norvasc), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDiuril), furosemide (Lasix), and many others.
- Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs) interacts with EPA (EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID)
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) might slow blood clotting. Taking EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.
Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.
EPA (EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID) Dosing
EPA is usually administered with DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) as fish oil. A wide range of doses have been used. A typical dose is 5 grams of fish oil containing 169-563 mg of EPA and 72-312 mg of DHA.
- For depression: 1 gram EPA twice daily.
- For borderline personality disorder: 1 gram of EPA daily (as ethyl eicosapentaenoic acid) has been used for up to 8 weeks.
- For symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes: 500 mg ethyl-EPA three times daily has been used for up to 8 weeks.