Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) Side Effects and prevention of thrombosis and
atherosclerosis June 2013
Discuss with your doctor before taking any alternative medicine. This article is for
reference only, it is not a medical advice. All rights reserved. Do not copy this article to
other website or blog.
Discuss with your doctor before taking any alternative medicine. This article is for
reference only, it is not a medical advice. All rights reserved. Do not copy this article to
other website or blog.
Eicosapentaenoic acid, icosapentaenoic acid,  20:5, timnodonic acid, EPA


Eicosapentaenoic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid. Eicosapentaenoic acid is a carboxylic acid, and it has 20-carbon chain
and five cis-double bonds. Thus, eicosapentaenoic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid. Eicosapentaenoic acid is
important to our body, as it is a precursor for prostaglandin-3, prostaglandin-3 is a chemical which inhibits platelet


Eicosapentaenoic acid can be obtained by eating cold water fatty fish, such as salmon, sardine, herring etc., and taking
fish oil supplements.Fish do not naturally produce eicosapentaenoic acid, the fish obtain it from the algae they
consume. While, our body can converts alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) to eicosapentaenoic acid. But, the conversion rate of
ALA to eicosapentaenoic acid is low.

Potential Health Benefits

Eicosapentaenoic acid is known with its anti-inflammatory effects. Based on The University of Maryland's Medical
Reference [UM], eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) may benefit people suffered from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder,
depression, heart disease, infant development, rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual pain, Raynaud syndrome, lupus, and
some other conditions.

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

It is known that omega-3 fatty acids are needed for children's brains to develop properly, it is reasonably to believe that
eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) may benefit children diagnosed with ADHD. However, so far, results have been mixed.


Some studies have showed that fish oil reduces symptoms of depression, and EPA might be the key factor for the
symptom reduction. [UM]

Infant Development

Babies need a balance of omega-3 fatty acids for normal growth and development, but the intake of eicosapentaenoic
acid (EPA) should be less than 0.1% in the formula diets. [UM]

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Menstrual Pain (MP), Raynaud Syndrome (RS) and Lupus (L)

Several studies show that fish oil may help reduce symptoms of RA, MP, RS and L, but it is not sure if eicosapentaenoic
acid (EPA) alone can benefit people suffered from these conditions.

Thrombosis, atherosclerosis and triglycerides

Eicosapentaenoic acid may prevent thrombosis and atherosclerosis. Scientists explained that EPA can be utilised by
the vessel wall to make an anti-aggregating substance, probably a delta17-prostacyclin (P.G.I3). This finding suggests
that, in vivo, high levels of EPA. and low levels of arachidonic acid could lead to an antithrombotic state in which an
active P.G.I3 and a non-active thromboxane A3 are formed. Scientists further explained that Eskimos have high levels
of EPA and low levels of arachidonic acid and they also have a low incidence of myocardial infarction and a tendency to
bleed. It is possible that dietary enrichment with EPA will protect against thrombosis.
[Dyerberg J et al, Lancet. 1978 Jul 15;2(8081):117-9.]

2. As discussed in the first article, EPA has been shown to prolong bleeding time and to decrease platelet aggregation
and blood viscosity. EPA inhibits the production of prostaglandins from endogenous arachidonic acid, which is
associated with the formation of thromboxane A2 and may also dampen cyclo-oxygenase and lipoxygenase metabolites
involved in mediating endothelial cell proliferation. Dietary fish oils are now available in the form of EPA-enriched
capsules. Short-term trials in humans have shown that EPA significantly reduces the levels of plasma triglycerides and
may increase the levels of high-density lipoproteins; however, no consistent effect on serum cholesterol levels has
been shown. [B. J. Holub, CMAJ September 1, 1988 vol. 139 no. 5]

Pancreatic Cancer

Eicosapentaenoic acid may benefit people suffered from pancreatic cancer. EPA and DHA were found to induce ROS
accumulation and caspase-8-dependent cell death in human pancreatic cancer cells (MIA-PaCa-2 and Capan-2) in
vitro. Feeding animals with a diet supplemented with 5% fish oil, which contains high levels of EPA and DHA, also
strongly suppresses the growth of MIA-PaCa-2 human pancreatic cancer xenografts in athymic nude mice, by inducing
oxidative stress and cell death. In addition, scientists at University of Kansas Medical Center showed that EPA can
concomitantly induce autophagy in these cancer cells, and the induction of autophagy diminishes its ability to induce
apoptotic cell death. It is therefore suggested that combination of EPA with an autophagy inhibitor may be a useful
strategy in increasing the therapeutic effectiveness in pancreatic cancer.[Fukul M et al, J Cell Biochem. 2013
Jan;114(1):192-203] Moreover, clinical studies are needed to support this health benefit claim.


Excess lipid accumulation in nonadipose tissues may occur in the setting of high levels of plasma free fatty acids or
triglycerides (TGs) in a process called "lipotoxicity". Researchers at University of Cordoba, Spain wrote "new
information has demonstrated the beneficial effects of consuming n-3 PUFA in preventing the complications of
lipotoxicity. n-3 PUFA dietary intake thus had positive effects on fatty liver in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver
disease, further, animal models suggest that oral dosing of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) could contribute to protect
against beta-cell lipotoxicity." in their review article. [Perez-Martinez P, et al, Biochim Biophys Acta. 2010

Possible Side Effects of Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

[1] Tendency to bleed.