The Ultimate Guide To Omega 3 Fish Oil
Most fats can synthesize the human body's needs from other fats or raw materials. However, it cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids, which must be obtained from food. A leading source of omega-3 fatty acids is fish oil, commonly found in fatty or oily fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and trout. These fish oils are also rich in vitamin A and D.
Unfortunately, most of the population in the United States does not meet the two 3.5-oz fish servings per week (preferably oily fish) recommended by The American Heart Association's Strategic Impact Goal Through 2020 and Beyond. Because of this, many people take omega-3 supplements to meet their omega-3 fat requirements. (1)
What are omega-3 fatty acids?
Plants and marine life contain omega-3 fatty acids, also called omega-3 fats or n-3 fats. They are part of the polyunsaturated fats family, like the omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fats play a crucial role in cell membranes throughout the whole body, as they influence cell receptors' function in these membranes. Additionally, they provide the basis for making important hormones for regulating blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation. Furthermore, n-3 fats get attached to cell receptors regulating genetic function.
What are the types of omega-3 fats?
Although there are many types of fatty acids in omega-3 fats, three are the most important. Two are derived from oily fish and seafood, while the third is obtained from plant-based foods.
Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
The omega-3 fatty acid EPA is a chain of 20 carbons and is mainly found in fish oil, fatty fish, and seafood. Salmon, eel, herring, shrimp, and sturgeon contain the highest concentrations of EPA. In addition, some grass-fed animal products, such as dairy and meats, are sources of eicosapentaenoic acid.
Your body employs EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) to create eicosanoids, signaling molecules that can reduce inflammation. This EPA characteristic can help many diseases that present chronic low-level inflammation.
A double-blind study conducted among 60 outpatients diagnosed with a major depressive disorder who were given either 1000 mg EPA or 20 mg fluoxetine (antidepressant drug) for eight weeks demonstrated that both were equally good in treating depression. However, their combined effects proved superior to each of them alone. (2)
In another clinical trial, menopausal women between the ages of 40 and 55 experiencing moderate to severe hot flashes were given an ethyl-eicosapentaenoic acid (E-EPA) omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for eight weeks. The treatment resulted in a reduction of the hot flashes frequency and intensity. (3)
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
Docosahexaenoic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid containing 22 carbons and, same as EPA, can be found in high levels in seafood, fatty fish, and algae. DHA is an integral part of cell membranes, particularly nerve cells in your brain, skin, and eye retina. It also covers about 40% of polyunsaturated fats in your brain.
Furthermore, DHA is vital for developing the brain in early childhood, and its deficiency has been linked to later problems like learning disabilities, ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), and aggressive hostility. (4)
Some research has pointed out that sufficient omega-3 intake during pregnancy can benefit the child by helping them to:
- Develop higher intelligence
- Reducing behavioral problems
- Improving communication and social skills
- Decreasing the risk of developmental delay
- Diminishing the risk of ADHD, cerebral palsy, and autism (5)
Other studies show the potential benefits of DHA in conditions that show later in life, such as Alzheimer's disease, hypertension, arthritis, atherosclerosis, adult-onset diabetes mellitus, myocardial infarction, and thrombosis. (6)
Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA)
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the most common omega-3 fatty acid, easy to add to your diet because it is present in many plant foods like kale, soybeans, spinach, and seeds like flax, chia, and hemp. Additionally, flaxseed and rapeseed (canola) oil are high in ALA.
Although alpha-linolenic acid does not have many biological tasks, it is capable of being converted into EPA and DHA.
However, this conversion process is insignificant in humans as only a tiny percentage of ALA gets transformed into EPA (5%) or DHA(0.5%) omega-3 fatty acids. When ALA is not converted into the other two main omega-3 fats, it is stored or used as energy like any other fat. Consequently, you can not depend upon alpha-linolenic acid as your primary source of omega-3 fats.
Five prospective cohort studies, three clinical trials, and three open-label trials exploring the relation between ALA intake and heart disease concluded that ALA might provide some protection against heart disease. (7)
Benefits of omega-3 fatty acids
In addition to the benefits mentioned before, omega-3 fatty acids can also help with health conditions such as:
- Multiple sclerosis (MS) by protecting the brain and nervous system
- Postpartum depression
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Cognitive decline
- Crohn's Disease
It can also improve cardiovascular health by:
- Lowering blood triglycerides
- Increasing "good" HDL cholesterol levels
- Preventing the formation of blood clots
- Reducing blood pressure levels in people suffering from high blood pressure
Should you take an omega-3 supplement?
There is no doubt that omega-3 fatty acid is an essential nutrient in anyone's diet. However, if it can not be obtained from your diet, you may want to consider incorporating omega-3 in a supplement form. Most studies that explore the benefits of omega-3 fats use supplements.
Some effective EPA and DHA supplements are those made of fish, krill, and algal oils. In contrast, those made from algae are more suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
When choosing an omega-3 supplement, you must check if it comes from a reliable source and is free of pollutants and harmful byproducts like our Omega 3 Fish Oil Three from Purity Labs.