Getting enough of the omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA into the brain to study their effects on conditions such as Alzheimer’s and depression — which they have been shown to help — is no easy task. Now researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago report that adding a lysophospholipid form of EPA (LPC-EPA) to the diet can increase levels of EPA in the brain 100-fold in mice. They report their results in the Journal of Lipid Research. Boosting EPA levels in the brain through consuming EPA has proven difficult because the amount of EPA that would need to be ingested to show increases in brain EPA levels is quite large — 40 to 50 milliliters daily. And researchers still don’t really have a great understanding of how EPA works to reduce depression and how much is needed in the brain to have these anti-depressive effects.
Prof. Subbaiah reports that providing EPA in the form of lysophospholipid, unlike the type present in fish oil supplements, escapes degradation by pancreatic enzymes which render it unable to pass into the brain. “It seems that there is a transporter at the blood-brain barrier that EPA must pass through in order to get into the brain, but EPA in fish oil can’t get through, whereas LPC-EPA can,” Subbaiah said. “You don’t have to consume all that much LPC- EPA to have significant increases of EPA show up in the brain, so this could be a way to do rigorous studies on the effects of EPA in humans.”