Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is no ordinary fatty acid - it's a crucial nutrient for your health. In this article, we delve deeper into the science, discover its many benefits, explore where you can find it, and how to make sure you're getting enough.

The power of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

EPA is a polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid. Put simply, it is a healthy fat and has a whole range of positive effects on your health. One of the most notable is its ability to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is involved in the development of many chronic diseases, from heart disease to arthritis to cancer. EPA can inhibit these inflammatory processes and help reduce your risk of these diseases.

In addition, EPA plays an important role in maintaining heart health. It helps to regulate blood pressure, lower blood triglyceride levels and improve blood clotting. All of these factors help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and keep your heart strong and healthy. In our guide on the topic blood lipid levels we give you another in-depth look at the health effects of the individual markers.

Where can I find eicosapentaenoic acid?

The best source of EPA is fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring. If you're not a fan of fish, don't worry - there are also plant-based sources of EPA. Algae oil supplements are a great option for vegetarians and vegans to ensure they get enough of this important fatty acid.

EPA vs. DHA: What's the difference?

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are two important omega-3 fatty acids that play a crucial role in your health. Structurally, they are very similar, but differ in their biological function and health effects. EPA is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and its role in supporting heart health. DHA, on the other hand, is particularly important for brain and eye health and plays an important role in the neurological development of infants.

EPA and ALA: What's the difference?

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is also an omega-3 fatty acid, but here too we find some differences to eicosapentaenoic acid. EPA, as already mentioned, is mainly found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, while ALA is found in plant foods such as linseed, walnuts and chia seeds. The body can use eicosapentaenoic acid directly, while ALA must first be converted to EPA and then to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to gain its full health benefits.

The consequences of an EPA deficiency

A lack of eicosapentaenoic acid can have serious consequences for your health. An insufficient intake of EPA is associated with an increased risk of inflammatory diseases, heart disease and even mood disorders. If you regularly avoid fatty fish, you may not be getting enough EPA to optimally support your health.

Did you know?

Inflammation plays a crucial role in ageing. For this reason, inflammaging has also been included as one of the hallmarks of ageing. In detail, the connections are quite complex, but you can imagine that the many small inflammations contribute to the typical diseases of old age. For this reason, research is being carried out into how inflammaging can be curbed. Promising candidates are the phytochemicals sulforaphane, quercetin and resveratrol.

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How much eicosapentaenoic acid do you need?

The German Nutrition Society (DGE ) recommends eating oily fish twice a week to ensure an adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA. Intake of at least 250-500 mg of EPA and DHA per day is recommended to support heart and brain health.

Did you know?

The renowned doctor and longevity expert Peter Attia also relies on EPA. He takes a fairly high dose of 2g EPA and 1.5g DHA daily. Peter Attia is best known for his book "Outlive" and his podcast.

EPA content in various foods

To give you an overview of the EPA content in various foods, we show you some examples here. As in our article on DHA, however, you should be careful about exposure to heavy metals if you eat too much fish. The American doctor Dr. Hyman suffered mercury poisoning as a result.

Food EPA content (per 100g)
Salmon 1000-2000 mg
Mackerel 500-1500 mg
Sardines 300-1000 mg
Herring 500-1000 mg
Tuna 300-1000 mg
Halibut 200-500 mg
Trout 200-500 mg
Trout oil preparations 300-500 mg
Cod 200-500 mg
Swordfish 200-500 mg

Food supplement with eicosapentaenoic acid

If you don't regularly eat oily fish or can't rely on plant sources, supplements are a convenient way to ensure you're getting enough EPA. Fish oil supplements are rich in EPA and DHA and can be an easy solution to increase your daily intake. Another advantage is that the supplements are free from heavy metals. These accumulate in the fish meat (more precisely in the proteins) and not in the oil.

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The importance of eicosapentaenoic acid in the blood

Your EPA level in the blood can indicate your risk of cardiovascular disease and inflammation. A low EPA level in the blood is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases. Regularly measuring your blood EPA levels allows you to monitor your omega-3 intake and take steps to improve it if necessary.

The omega-3 index as a benchmark

The omega-3 index is measured by a blood test in which the content of omega-3 fatty acids in the red blood cells is determined. The concentrations of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are analyzed. The analysis is typically carried out using gas chromatography or high-performance liquid chromatography in combination with mass spectrometry. These techniques allow accurate quantification of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood and calculation of the omega-3 index as the ratio of EPA and DHA to total fatty acids in the red blood cells. The measurement of the omega-3 index is a standardized and reliable method to assess the omega-3 supply and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Is there too much of a good thing?

In general, EPA is safe and well tolerated, even in higher doses. However, it is important to adhere to the recommended dosages, as excessive consumption can lead to gastrointestinal complaints or an increased tendency to bleed. Cardiac arrhythmia has also been observed at extremely high doses. You can find out more about this in our omega-3 article.


EPA is a vital omega-3 fatty acid that offers a variety of health benefits. By regularly eating oily fish or taking supplements, you can ensure you're getting enough EPA to support your health and boost your wellbeing.


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