Researchers report that adding to the lysophospholipid form of EPA (LPC-EPA) to increase dietary levels of EPA in the brain 100-fold in mice. Getting enough of the omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA into the brain to study its effects on conditions like Alzheimer's and depression which they have been shown to help – is no easy task. While these are fatty acids, there is scant evidence that these supplements actually increase DHA or EPA in the brain.

Now researchers from the University of Illinois report that adding to the lysophospholipid form of EPA (LPC-EPA) to increase the levels of EPA in the brain 100-fold in mice. The amount of LPC-EPA in the diet required for this increase is rather small for mice – less than a milligram per day. The human equivalent would amount to less than a quarter of a gram per day. They report their results in the  Journal of Lipid Research .

The omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are known to have anti-inflammatory effects and protect against various neurological and metabolic diseases. DHA has been shown to be good for memory and cognitive deficits associated with Alzheimer's disease, and in pre-clinical studies, EPA has been shown to be effective in treating and preventing depression.

DHA is already prevalent in the brain, and there is little evidence to support the idea that eating lots of fish oil increases levels of DHA in the brain . Boosting EPA levels in the brain by consuming EPA has proven difficult because of the amount of EPA that would need to be ingested to show increases in brain EPA levels is quite large.

LPC-EPA can get through the blood-brain barrier

He reports that providing EPA in the form of lysophospholipid 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 cannot get through, whereas LPC-EPA can," Subbaiah said.

Producing LPC-EPA is not difficult, and it can be incorporated into feed pellets that Subbaiah fed to laboratory mice. These mice had up to 100 times more EPA in their brains after eating 1 mg/day of the LPC-EPA in their feed for 15 days than mice eating plain EPA.

 Interestingly, the mice eating LPC-EPA also had two times more DHA in their brains. "This study is proof of the concept that we can increase levels of both EPA and DHA in the brain by incorporating LPC-EPA in the diet," said Subbaiah.