Click 'Back to Intro' to return to the beginning of this section.


Other name(s):

eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-3 oil(s)

General description

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid. It’s found in fish oils. These include cod liver oil, krill oil, and haddock oil.

Medically valid uses

EPA changes fat (lipid) metabolism. It also lowers harmful lipid levels in the bloodstream. EPA has been shown to decrease triglycerides, LDL, and VLDL. It reduces the damage lipids cause on the lining of the blood vessels.

EPA also reduces overproduction of cells that line the blood vessels. This is called the endothelial lining. This may help reduce the risk of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

EPA is also used to treat severe respiratory issues. These include adult respiratory distress syndrome and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). But EPA isn’t a standard treatment for these diseases.

Unsubstantiated claims

There may be benefits that have not yet been proven through research.

Fish oil may help prevent cancer and heart attacks. It may help treat rheumatoid arthritis and Raynaud phenomenon.

EPA may also help treat depression and symptoms of menopause. It may also help treat psoriasis and personality disorder.

Dosing format

There is no recommended dietary amount (RDA) for EPA. Standard dosages range from 3 g to 9 g of fish oil per day.

Instead of taking a set amount of EPA, you should increase the amount of fatty acids in your diet. You can do this by consuming more fish or marine animals. Or you can take fish oil supplements. Fish oil is high in EPA.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk with their healthcare providers before taking any supplements.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

EPA doesn’t cause any known side effects.

Always talk with your healthcare provider before taking EPA to be sure there are no medicine interactions. Fish oil can interact with both blood-pressure medicine and blood-clotting medicine.

The use of EPA with other lipid-lowering medicines may help prevent heart disease.

There are no known food interactions with EPA.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brittany Poulson MDA RDN CD CDE
Online Medical Reviewer: Diane Horowitz MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2021