Docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) is an omega-3 fatty acid with 22 carbons and five double bonds (22:5n3). It is formed from its precursor, EPA, by way of the elongase enzyme which adds two carbons. It can be supplemented or obtained in the diet from foods such as marine oily fish.
Not only is DPA found in most fish and marine foods but it is also present in lean red meat from ruminant animals.
DPA is often overlooked and overshadowed by the significant amount of research on its precursor EPA and downstream metabolite docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both EPA and DHA are widely studied and commonly available as fish oil supplements. However, DPA is also found to have significant clinical importance. DPA inhibits cyclooxygenase-1 and is a potent inhibitor of platelet aggregation. It also has been shown to suppress lipogenesis to regulate lipolysis in favor of increased lipid oxidation for energy. It’s beneficial role in cardiovascular disease has also been studied. DPA can be retroconverted to EPA. Some research suggests that DPA can function as a reservoir or buffer of the other omega-3 fatty acids.
- Miller E, Kaur G, Larsen A, et al. A short-term n-3 DPA supplementation study in humans. European journal of nutrition. 2013;52(3):895-904.
- Zheng Z, Dai Z, Cao Y, Shen Q, Zhang Y. Docosapentaenoic acid (DPA, 22: 5n-3) ameliorates inflammation in an ulcerative colitis model. Food & function. 2019;10(7):4199- 4209.
- Costea I, Mack DR, Lemaitre RN, et al. Interactions between the dietary polyunsaturated fatty acid ratio and genetic factors determine susceptibility to pediatric Crohn’s disease. Gastroenterology. 2014;146(4):929-931. e923.
- Leng G, Horrobin D, Fowkes F, et al. Plasma essential fatty acids, cigarette smoking, and dietary antioxidants in peripheral arterial disease. A population-based casecontrol study. Arteriosclerosis and thrombosis: a journal of vascular biology. 1994;14(3):471-478.
- Rissanen T, Voutilainen S, Nyyssönen K, Lakka TA, Salonen JT. Fish oil–derived fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid and docosapentaenoic acid, and the risk of acute coronary events: the Kuopio ischaemic heart disease risk factor study. Circulation. 2000;102(22):2677-2679.
- Dyall SC. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: a review of the independent and shared effects of EPA, DPA and DHA. Frontiers in aging neuroscience. 2015;7:52.
- Saber H, Yakoob MY, Shi P, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids and incident ischemic stroke and its atherothrombotic and cardioembolic subtypes in 3 US cohorts. Stroke. 2017;48(10):2678-2685.
Elevated DPA is seen with high intake of marine fish and other food sources, as well as with supplementation. High levels are less likely due to problems with downstream metabolism to DHA since it’s been shown to retro convert to EPA as a regulator and reservoir of the omega-3 fatty acids. DPA’s anti-inflammatory effects have been studied in many conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, peripheral vascular disease, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, and stroke.
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