What are EPA and DHA? Your Omega-3 Questions Answered

What are EPA and DHA
What are EPA and DHA? Read on!

Written by MacuHealth
Reviewed by Jim Stringham, Ph.D.

Based on scientific studies, health care providers and optometrists are recommending patients increase their intake of Omega-3s. These polyunsaturated fatty acids are considered “good fats” because of their numerous benefits to the heart, brain and eyes. But many Americans fall short of the recommended intake of these ingredients. This is why Omega-3 supplements are becoming more popular, especially those utilizing fish oil as an ingredient.

Yet many patients are confused when they go to their local pharmacy or health care store. They see countless fish oil supplements on their shelves with many different formulas and price points. Many questions come to mind, such as: “What are EPA and DHA?” and “Which formula is the best?”

We’ll take a closer look why certain ingredients in an Omega-3 fish oil supplement are more important than others.

What to look for on an Omega-3 supplement label?

When looking at the label of a fish oil supplement, you’ll need to learn a whole new alphabet. Check the letters in the active ingredients. Many lower-cost bottles feature an Omega-6 called gamma-Linolenic acid, or GLA.

GLA can produce good results for the body, including some anti-inflammatory effects. However, it can also have potentially unhealthy consequences. The body can convert GLA into arachidonic acid, or ARA. ARA tends to be inflammatory. And because it’s in poultry, eggs and red meat, Americans already have too much of it in their diet. This can lead to more inflammation, not less.

Additionally, when identifying a high-quality fish oil product, check to see if the base formulation is “re-esterified triglyceride” (rTG) or “ethyl ester” (EE). Re-esterified triglyceride is natural, recognized by the body and has high bioavailability. Ethyl ester is cheaper and easier to produce but has ethanol as its backbone, leading to health problems and lower bioavailability.

So, what letters should you be looking for on a fish oil supplement label? Research shows that EPA and DHA are best at reducing inflammation and dry eye symptoms. But what are EPA and DHA? We’ll explore what sets them apart from GLA below.

What are EPA and DHA?

According to SFGate.com, EPA and DHA are long-chain polyunsaturated fats with 14 or more carbons. They’re shown to have numerous health benefits. For example, your doctor may prescribe a steroid because of its anti-inflammatory properties. However, these drugs have serious side effects, including stomach pain, indigestion and an increased appetite. EPA’s secret power is its ability to act like a steroid without the nasty side effects. EPA inhibits the enzyme that produces ARA, which can cause inflammation on the cellular level.

It can be said that the more EPA you have in your system, the less harmful inflammation you’ll have in your body. It can ease the symptoms of arthritis, inflammatory bowel syndrome and other autoimmune disorders. EPA can also decrease the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression, cancer and other diseases.

DHA also has additional benefits for the brain and eyes and is critical to neural performance. It increases the speed of nerve signals within and between these vital organs. This enhances our visual and cognitive performance, including improved reaction time, contrast sensitivity, and accuracy. When EPA and DHA work together, it provides optimal benefits to the body.


We’ve answered the question – What are EPA and DHA? And despite the scientific evidence proving the importance of omega-3s to our vision and overall health, getting them into our diet is difficult. The body only receives these essential fatty acids through food such as fish, shellfish and some algae or supplementation.


Taking a pharmaceutical-grade fish oil supplement is essential to delivering a safe and proven way to boost our vision, brain, and heart function. Because of the multitude of studies that have found significant benefits in taking EPA and DHA, MacuHealth developed TG Omega-3 Fish Oil to help us meet our current health demands.


TG Omega-3 is a natural re-esterified triglyceride formulation that is purified up to five times to eliminate toxins, impurities and fishy taste. TG Omega-3 offers 2,200 mg of EPA and DHA combined per serving. Next time you shop for fish oil, check if it has the correct formulation and letters on the label to give your body the boost it needs.