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  • 2014

Safety of essential fatty acids confirmed

Published on

24 October 2014

Experts from the European Food Safety Authority conclude that supplemental eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid from algal oil sources up to five grams daily can be safely taken as there are no safety concerns for adults.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) expert panel was asked to deliver a scientific opinion on an extension of use for docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)-rich algal oil from Schizochytrium species, currently recommended up to a maximum DHA and EPA content of 3 g per daily dose for the adult population, excluding pregnant and lactating women (1). The scientists concluded that supplemental intake of EPA and DHA combined at doses up to 5 g/day, does not give rise to safety concerns for adults. 

The expert group also reviewed the evidence for an association between DHA and/or EPA intake and risk of developing prostate cancer. The panel considered that, on the basis of available data, there is no evidence for a role of EPA and/or DHA intake in the development of prostate cancer. While an earlier study found no association between fish oil omega-3 fatty acid supplement use and prostate cancer risk (2), an analysis of data from another study suggested that elevated EPA and DHA concentrations may increase prostate cancer risk (3). The latter study was criticized for inappropriately extrapolating the data when blood concentrations were well below those seen in individuals taking fish oil supplements (4). A single baseline blood sample analysis has been rated to not be an accurate reflection of long-term omega-3 fatty acid intake or status.


  1. European Food Safety Authority. Scientific Opinion on the extension of use for DHA and EPA-rich algal oil from Schizochytrium sp. as a Novel Food ingredient. EFSA Journal. 2014; 12(10):3843.
  2. Brasky T. M. et al. Specialty supplements and prostate cancer risk in the Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) cohort. Nutr Cancer. 2011; 63(4):573–582.
  3. Brasky T. M. et al. Plasma phospholipid fatty acids and prostate cancer risk in the SELECT trial. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2013; 105(15):1132–1141.
  4. Harris W. and Davidson M. H. Re: plasma phospholipid fatty acids and prostate cancer risk in the SELECT trial. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2014; 106(4).

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