Current Atherosclerosis Reports

, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 474–483

Effects of Eicosapentaenoic Acid Versus Docosahexaenoic Acid on Serum Lipids: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Nutrition (William S. Harris, Section Editor)

DOI: 10.1007/s11883-011-0210-3

Cite this article as:
Wei, M.Y. & Jacobson, T.A. Curr Atheroscler Rep (2011) 13: 474. doi:10.1007/s11883-011-0210-3


Omega-3 fatty acid supplements containing both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have been shown to reduce triglycerides but also increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Whether EPA or DHA given as monotherapy has differential effects on serum lipoproteins has not been systematically evaluated. We performed a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials of monotherapy with EPA (n = 10), DHA (n = 17), or EPA versus DHA (n = 6). Compared with placebo, DHA raised LDL 7.23 mg/dL (95% CI, 3.98–10.5) whereas EPA non-significantly reduced LDL. In direct comparison studies, DHA raised LDL 4.63 mg/dL (95% CI, 2.15–7.10) more than EPA. Both EPA and DHA reduced triglycerides, with a greater reduction by DHA in direct comparison studies. DHA also raised high-density lipoprotein (4.49 mg/dL; 95% CI, 3.50–5.48) compared with placebo, whereas EPA did not. Although EPA and DHA both reduce triglycerides, they have divergent effects on LDL and high-density lipoprotein. Further research is needed to elucidate the mechanisms and significance of these differences.


Omega-3 fatty acidEicosapentaenoic acidDocosahexaenoic acidHigh-density lipoprotein cholesterolLow-density lipoprotein cholesterolTriglycerideCardiovascular diseaseSystematic reviewMeta-analysis



Cholesteryl ester transfer protein


Confidence interval


Combination of Prescription Omega-3 with Simvastatin


Degrees of freedom


Docosahexaenoic acid


Eicosapentaenoic acid


High-density lipoprotein cholesterol


Japanese EPA Lipid Intervention Study


Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol


Peroxisome proliferator-activator receptors

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MedicineEmory University School of MedicineAtlantaGeorgia
  2. 2.Office of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Department of MedicineEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA