Omega-3 fatty acids are the third most common type of dietary supplements used by adult Americans according to data collected in the 2017-2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Persons aged 60 and over take omega-3s the most at 21.8%, followed by those in the 40 to 59 age range at 12.5%, then those aged 20 to 39 at 5.4%.
The Office of Dietary Supplements adds that there are three main omega-3s: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Another important polyunsaturated fatty acid to look for in an omega-3 supplement is docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) because, although it is less well-known, it has also been associated with several health benefits.
DPA: the “iceberg” fatty acid
A 2021 review in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care calls DPA “the iceberg n-3 fatty acid” due to it being largely overlooked in research despite having numerous biological roles. Two to consider are reducing inflammation and regulating immune system function.
A 2019 study investigated the anti-inflammatory effects of DPA in ulcerative colitis models. Results showed that this omega-3 was better than both EPA and DHA at reducing disease activity index and macroscopic appearance scores—both of which it reduced significantly. DPA also hindered pro-inflammatory cytokine production and mRNA expression while improving anti-inflammatory cytokine production and expression.
A review published in 2021 explains that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids improve intestinal immunity by counteracting the effects of stress-related cell damage, increasing mitochondria activity within the cells, and reinforcing cell membrane integrity. They also limit excess inflammation while, at the same time, boosting the body’s immune response.
DPA’s connection with physical and mental health
DPA helps protect the body against bacterial and viral infections, along with protecting against disease. One review indicates that this fatty acid had the strongest effects for protecting against colorectal cancer when compared to other omega-3s. It also potentially offers protections related to age-related cognitive decline.
Other pieces of research have connected DPA with additional health benefits. One reports that it can improve cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk markers, in part, through its impact on lipid parameters and insulin sensitivity. Another connects DPA with improved neural health.
Research also links omega-3 intake with mental health. According to research published in the Global Health Journal, individuals who are deficient in these fatty acids have an increased risk of developing a psychiatric disorder. Some of the disorders with ties to low omega-3 levels are depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, and dementia. Two conditions that tend to affect pediatric patients at a higher rate are attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism.
Combining DPA with other omega-3s
While DPA serves several important purposes, a supplement that contains multiple omega-3s offers the benefit of each, increasing its potential value in terms of optimal health and wellness.
For example, in a three-month double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, individuals taking an EPA supplement decreased their very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol levels by 25%. This resulted in a significant decrease in the participants’ total cholesterol levels. In a 26-week trial, subjects taking EPA had improved memory accuracy and faster cognitive function.
A 2021 review of the benefits of DHA talks about how this fatty acid is important in all stages of life, from fetal development to old age. Case in point: It can help prevent a baby from being born prematurely and it can improve cognitive function and eye health in the elderly. The previously mentioned research published in the Global Health Journal adds that both EPA and EHA are important for maintaining mental health.
How to take an omega-3 supplement
Certain technologies exist that can enhance the bioavailability of omega-3 supplements. They include emulsifiers and absorption enhancers. Another way to make the fatty acids in a supplement more available is to take it with a meal that contains some type of fat.
As far as time of day, there appears to be no advantage over taking an omega-3 in the morning or at night. If patients tend to have more fat in their breakfast, this may be preferable. Or if they eat a lean breakfast and have a higher-fat meal for dinner, then the latter would be the best time to take the supplement instead.
Offering patients an omega-3 with DPA
Chiropractic professionals can offer patients easy access to an omega-3 with DPA through Dee Cee Laboratories’ Superior Omega-3 supplement. Two soft gels of Superior Omega-3 daily provide 2,000 mg of menhaden fish oil, along with 550 mg each of EPA and DHA, and 100 mg of DPA.
This product should not be taken by individuals who’ve recently had surgery or been diagnosed with a bleeding disorder. It also should not be used by people on blood-thinning drugs or who are pregnant or lactating.
Superior Omega-3 is made in the U.S.A. using Good Manufacturing Practices. It is manufactured in an FDA Registered Facility and meets USP <2040> disintegration standards for maximum bioavailability.