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Epa (Eicosapentaenoic Acid)

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What other names is Eicosapentaenoic Acid known by?

Acide Eicosapentaénoïque, Acide Éthyle-Eicosapentaénoïque, Acide Gras Essentiel, Acide Gras d'Huile de Poisson, Acide Gras N-3, Acide Gras Omega, Acide Gras Oméga 3, Acide Gras Polyinsaturé, Acide Gras W3, Acido Eicosapentaenoico, EPA, E-EPA, Eicosapentanoic Acid, Essential Fatty Acid, Ethyl Eicosapentaenoic Acid, Ethyl-Eicosapentaenoic Acid, Ethyl-EPA, Fish Oil Fatty Acid, Icosapent Ethyl, N-3 Fatty Acid, Omega Fatty Acid, Omega 3, Oméga 3, Omega-3, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid, PUFA, W-3 Fatty Acid.

What is Eicosapentaenoic Acid?

Eicosapentaenoic acid is a fatty acid found in the flesh of cold-water fish, including mackerel, herring, tuna, halibut, salmon, cod liver, whale blubber, or seal blubber.

Eicosapentaenoic acid is taken by mouth for some heart-related conditions including clogged heart arteries (coronary artery disease), to prevent or treat heart attacks, and to reduce levels of blood fats called triglycerides in people with very high levels. It is also used for some mental conditions including schizophrenia, personality disorder, Alzheimer's disease, depression, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used to prevent loss of vision that occurs in older people (age-related macular degeneration; AMD), for psoriasis, asthma, cystic fibrosis, and diabetes. Eicosapentaenoic acid is also used for lung cancer, prostate cancer, to help maintain body weight in people with cancer, and to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy in people with cancer.

Women use eicosapentaenoic acid to reduce symptoms of menopause, to reduce high blood pressure during high-risk pregnancies, and to reduce the risk of an infant having delayed growth while still in the uterus.

Eicosapentaenoic acid 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, and kidney disease caused by an immune reaction. The combination is also used 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.

Eicosapentaenoic acid is used in combination with RNA and L-arginine after surgery to reduce infections, improve wound healing, and shorten recovery time. It is also used in combination with another fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid, for high blood pressure.

Eicosapentaenoic acid is given intravenously (by IV), along with DHA, for psoriasis.

Don't confuse eicosapentaenoic acid with similar fatty acids, such as alpha-linolenic acid and DHA, as well as with oils like krill or fish oils, which contain both eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. Most available data involving eicosapentaenoic acid are from research and clinical experience with fish oil products containing variable combinations of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. For more information, see the separate listings for Alpha-Linolenic Acid, DHA, Fish Oil, and Krill Oil.

Likely Effective for...

  • High levels of blood fats called triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia). Research shows that taking a specific product containing eicosapentaenoic acid as ethyl eicosapentaenoic acid (Vascepa by Amarin) by mouth along with dieting and cholesterol-lowering drugs called "statins" reduces levels of triglycerides in people with very high levels. It might also improve cholesterol levels. This product is FDA-approved in adults with very high triglyceride levels.
More evidence is needed to rate eicosapentaenoic acid for these uses.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Clogged heart arteries (Coronary artery disease). People with coronary artery disease who consume more eicosapentaenoic acid as part of the diet seem to have a slightly reduced risk of death. Early research shows that taking 1800 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid daily reduces the risk of heart-related adverse events such as heart attacks in people with high cholesterol and coronary artery disease.
  • Depression. Research suggests that taking pure eicosapentaenoic acid or fish oil containing at least 60% eicosapentaenoic acid reduces symptoms of depression. It might work best when used along with antidepressant drugs. Taking eicosapentaenoic acid also seems to help prevent the depression from developing in people being treated with a drug called interferon-alpha.
  • Symptoms of menopause. Research shows that taking eicosapentaenoic acid reduces how often hot flashes occur. But eicosapentaenoic acid does not seem to reduce the intensity of the hot flashes or improve overall quality of life.
  • A mood disorder called borderline personality disorder. Taking eicosapentaenoic acid seems to slightly lower aggressiveness and slightly relieve depression in women with this mood disorder.

Possibly Ineffective for...

  • An eye disease called AMD (age-related macular degeneration). Eating more eicosapentaenoic acid as part of the diet does not seem to prevent AMD.
  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis). Taking eicosapentaenoic acid by mouth does not seem to relieve hay fever symptoms such as wheezing, cough, and nasal symptoms.
  • Asthma. Taking eicosapentaenoic acid by mouth does not seem to reduce asthma symptoms.
  • Cystic fibrosis. Taking eicosapentaenoic acid by mouth does not seem so to improve symptoms of cystic fibrosis.
  • Diabetes. Taking eicosapentaenoic acid by mouth does not seem to reduce blood sugar or cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Pregnancy-related high blood pressure (eclampsia). Taking eicosapentaenoic acid by mouth does not seem to reduce high blood pressure in women with high-risk pregnancies.
  • High blood pressure. Taking eicosapentaenoic acid by mouth with another fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid, does not seem to reduce blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.
  • Delayed growth of an infant while still in the uterus. Taking eicosapentaenoic acid by mouth does not seem to reduce the risk of an infant having delayed growth while still in the uterus.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Alzheimer's disease. Early research suggests that increased intake of eicosapentaenoic acid in the diet doesn't help prevent Alzheimer's disease.
  • Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some research shows that low blood levels of eicosapentaenoic acid and other fatty acids are linked with ADHD in children. However, it's not known yet if taking eicosapentaenoic acid supplements can treat or prevent ADHD.
  • Loss of body mass in people with cancer. Early research shows that taking a nutritional supplement containing eicosapentaenoic acid (ProSure by Abbott Nutrition) by mouth while undergoing chemotherapy to treat lung cancer helps prevent the loss of lean body mass better than a nutritional supplement without eicosapentaenoic acid.
  • Side effects of cancer treatment for lung cancer. Early research shows that taking a nutritional supplement containing eicosapentaenoic acid (ProSure by Abbott Nutrition) by mouth while undergoing chemotherapy to treat lung cancer helps to reduce some side effects of the chemotherapy compared to a nutritional supplement without eicosapentaenoic acid. Tiredness and nerve pain seem to be reduced with eicosapentaenoic acid. But eicosapentaenoic acid does not seem to reduce other side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Lung cancer. Early research shows that taking a nutritional supplement containing eicosapentaenoic acid (ProSure by Abbott Nutrition) by mouth while undergoing chemotherapy to treat lung cancer does not improve response rate or increase survival compared to taking a nutritional supplement without eicosapentaenoic acid.
  • Heart attack. Early research shows that taking eicosapentaenoic acid by mouth along with a drug called a "statin" after undergoing a procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), which is used in people who have had a heart attack, reduces the risk of developing an irregular heart beat (arrhythmia) after the procedure compared to taking the "statin" alone. Also, taking eicosapentaenoic acid by mouth along with "statins" before undergoing PCI for chest pain reduces the risk of having a heart attack after the procedure.
  • Psoriasis. Early research shows that taking eicosapentaenoic acid by mouth along or giving eicosapentaenoic acid intravenously (by IV) along with a drug called etretinate improves psoriasis symptoms better than etretinate alone.
  • Preventing infection after surgery. Early research shows that giving eicosapentaenoic acid, RNA, and L-arginine as part of "tube feeding" after surgery reduces the potential for infections and improves recovery time compared to standard "tube feeding."
  • Prostate cancer. It is not known if levels of eicosapentaenoic acid in the blood affect the risk of getting prostate cancer. Some research shows that a higher blood level of eicosapentaenoic acid is linked with a lower risk of getting prostate cancer. But other research shows there's no link.
  • Schizophrenia. Research to date shows conflicting results about the effectiveness of eicosapentaenoic acid in treating schizophrenia.
  • Lung diseases.
  • Lupus.
  • Menstrual disorders.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate eicosapentaenoic acid for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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