What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids aka Fish oils?
Omega-3s are a specific type of polyunsaturated fatty acid, and technically that means they contain more than one double bond in their chemical structure. The “3” refers to where in the chemical structure the first double bond occurs.
Our body is able to synthesize saturated fatty acids, but we humans are missing an enzyme that allows us to stick a double bond in the right spot to create omega-3s ourselves.
Therefore, we need to get them from your diet or from omega-3 supplements (such as omega-3 fish oil or capsules).
But just to confuse you, our body also needs some omega 6's, another type of fatty acid, to function properly and prevent disease.They are found in vegetable oils, safflower oils, meat, poultry and eggs.
However, omega 6 oils are found in much more abundance than omega-3s in the standard American diet. We need a 4:1 ratio of Omega 6:Omega 3 to keep inflammation low, but most modern diets contain a ratio closer to 20:1 or 30:1 omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. This is mostly due to the excessive use of seed oils in our modern diets.
Common Types of Omega-3
There are 4 types of Omega 3.
Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA)
This plant-based omega-3 is found in green, leafy vegetables; flaxseeds and chia seeds; and to a lesser amount canola, walnut and soybean oils.
ALA is known as a short-chain omega-3. This means your body has to convert it into longer-chained EPA and DHA to synthesize it. This process is very inefficient, and only about 10 percent of the ALA you consume is converted to the long-chain version your body needs.
Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
EPA is a 20-carbon fatty acid found in oily fish, algae oil and krill oil.. Your body is able to synthesize this molecule in its original form. EPA and DHA are the omega-3s your body needs in high quantities to achieve the benefits they offer.
Eicosatetraenoic Acid (ETA)
ETA is a lesser-known omega-3 fatty acid that also contains 20 carbons, like EPA, but only four bonds instead of five. It is found richly in roe oil and green-lipped mussel. Not only is it anti-inflammatory, like the other omega-3s, but ETA can also limit your body’s production of the inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid (ARA). In fact, ETA redirects the enzyme that normally creates ARA to convert it to EPA instead.
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
This 22-carbon molecule is also found in oily fish, krill oil, algae oil and omega-3 fish oil supplements. Your body converts some DHA molecules back to EPA in order to keep them at fairly equal levels if you consume more DHA than you need.
There are so many good reasons to increase your intake of Omega 3’s, here is just a short list
1.. Good for Heart Health
One of the most well-known omega-3 benefits is the way they reduce risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death worldwide. Studies show that adults who eat diets rich in fish tend to have low instances of these diseases.
- Lowering High Triglycerides
- Regulating Cholesterol
- Lowering High Blood Pressure
- Preventing Plaque Buildup
- Reduce Metabolic Syndrome Symptoms
- Preventing Blood Clots
2.. May Fight Mental Disorders and Decline
There are a number of conditions related to brain and mental health that seem to improve when individuals get good omega-3s.
- Depression and Anxiety
- Bipolar Disorder
- Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Mental Decline
3.. Reduce Inflammation
One reason omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial to many aspects of health could be that they help decrease system-wide inflammation, the root cause of most diseases.
In particular, recent evidence has found that supplementing with omega-3s may reduce some inflammation caused by fat accumulation in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
4.. Linked to Preventing and Managing Autoimmune Diseases
Auto immune conditions, characterized by the immune system attacking healthy cells, mistaking them for foreign intruders, autoimmune conditions include diseases such as type 1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, leaky gut syndrome and many more. Omega 3's can help reduce the inflammation associated with these conditions.
5.. Associated with Lowered Cancer Risks
Through several epidemiological studies, in which researchers observe trends in large population samples over time, it seems possible and very probable that adequate intake of omega-3 fats may be associated with a lowered risk of certain cancers.
Where do we get Omega 3’s?
It’s ideal to get your fatty acids from Omega 3 foods since they provide other nutrients that benefit health as well, such as vitamin K, folate, phosphorus, etc.
Top omega-3 foods include:
SMASH fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovy, sardine, herring)
Cod liver oil
Ground flax seeds (high in ALA and poorly converted to DHA and EPA)
There are many many omega 3 supplements on the market. Please be sure the ones you choose are high quality since some less costly ones can contain mercury and other toxins.
- These high potency capsules contain a great ratio of EPA and DHA.
- These Omega 3’s are (honestly) delicious tasting, potent fish oil products. They are made using a special emulsification technology that significantly reduces the size of fish oil molecules, resulting in enhanced absorption and easy digestion. (aka no fishy taste) with high levels of EPA and DHA.