A survey noted that 7.8 percent of adults and 1.1 percent of children aged 4-17 took fish oil supplements in the past 30 days. But, are fish oil capsules in any way equivalent to eating a serving of Atlantic salmon? Let’s explore that today!
If you’re wondering what makes omega-3 so unique, we can help! This article delves into the three most important types of omega-3s. These essential fatty acids can help you reduce your cholesterol and risk for cardiovascular disease.
We will also go over the health benefits of these fatty acids and how to incorporate them into your diet easily.
We hear you! Thus, we will also debunk some myths because complete knowledge is vital, isn’t it?
Let’s Talk Science
Fats are an essential nutrient for a healthy lifestyle. Fats in our food are made up of fatty acid molecules, consisting of carbon and hydrogen atoms linked together.
Fatty acids can be classified into two types: saturated and unsaturated.
- Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs): Unsaturated fatty acids with one double bond (Omega-9 fatty acids)
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs): Unsaturated fatty acids with more than one double bond (Omega-3 fatty acids)
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary fats. What does this imply? It means that your body cannot produce these fatty acids, so you must obtain them through your diet.
Low omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to lower intelligence, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, depression, and other health issues. There are eleven different kinds of omega-3 fats, three of which three are particularly important.
The 3 Most Important Types Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The three most important types are listed below:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
ALA is primarily derived from plants like flaxseed, soybean, and canola. DHA and EPA are obtained from seafood like fish.
1. Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA)
An examination of ALA metabolism in healthy young men revealed that approximately 8% of the ALA is converted to EPA. In young women, about 21% of ALA was converted to EPA and 9% to DHA. As a result, ALA is the most important Omega-3 fatty acid among the three. It has often been associated with various health benefits.
Sources of ALA:
- Canola Oil
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
Benefits of ALA consumption
1. Lowering Cholesterol
The accumulation of low-density cholesterol in the blood vessels is a significant cause of many heart-related problems. In a study of two groups to determine the effect of cholesterol on LDL, it was discovered that adults who consumed ALA had lower levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in serum than those who followed a control diet.
2. Neuroprotective Agent
Did you know that ALA is an excellent antioxidant? Now you do! Oxidative stress can lead to DNA damage and subsequently to the death of neurons.
We all are familiar with Parkinson’s disease, a neurological condition with no known cure. What if I tell you ALA can help in controlling this disease? According to studies, ALA can upregulate a DNA repair protein called PCNA (Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen). It, in turn, protects neurons from neurotoxicity and hence can be used to curb Parkinson’s disease.
3. Promote Weight Loss
ALA can convert fat into muscles. The more muscles you have, the more calorie you burn. It was discovered in an animal model study that ALA could improve skeletal muscles mass. It can lead to an increase in energy metabolism, which can result in weight loss.
4. Heart Diseases
Many cardiovascular diseases are associated with oxidative stress, including atherosclerosis, hypertension, and heart failure. Since ALA can reduce reactive oxygen species, it can also protect the heart from serious compilations.
2. Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
The process of conversion of ALA to EPA and DPA is not sufficient to meet the needs of EPA. EPA can impact the overall health of an individual. A diet high in EPA may benefit coronary heart disease, high blood triglycerides, hypertension, certain cancers, depression, inflammation, among other conditions.
Sources of EPA:
Benefits of EPA consumption
1. Can Fight Depression
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the world. Surprisingly, studies show that people who regularly consume EPA are less likely to be depressed.
In a scientific study with depressed individuals, it was discovered that 67 percent of the treatment group no longer met depression criteria after supplementation with EPA. Similar studies were also performed on medical students, and similar results were observed.
In 2009, data was collected and analyzed from three studies that used EPA to treat three different kinds of depression. EPA is effective in treating depression in both adults and children.
2. Reduce The Symptoms of Menopause
Heat flashes are one of the most daunting symptoms of menopause. Randomized clinical trial results showed that the consumption of EPA reduced hot flash frequency and improved the hot flash score compared to placebo.
3. Can Reduce Sun Damage
Is your skin wrinkled? I’ve got some good news for you!
The importance of collagen proteins in skin health cannot be overstated. Collagen prevents our skin from sagging and gives us that youthful glow.
Sun exposure causes substances in your skin to attack collagen. EPA can prevent that, and hence it can help in preventing premature ageing.
4. Reduce Inflammation
Eicosanoids are produced by your body using eicosapentaenoic acid. They play an essential role in regulating inflammation by regulating inflammatory cytokines. Eicosanoids promote sleep, pain, and fever, and they play a role in vasodilation.
In terms of inflammation control, EPA outperforms DPA.
3. Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
DHA is probably the star amongst the omega fatty acids. Consumption of DHA is highly recommended by gynaecologists and paediatricians and for good reasons.
Sources of DHA:
Benefits of DHA consumption
1. Can Control Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Research shows that children and adults with ADHD frequently have lower levels of DHA in their blood. DHA can accelerate blood flow during mental tasks.
An 8-month study of 362 children who took 600 mg of DHA daily showed a reduction of impulsive behaviour by 8%, twice as much as a placebo group.
2. Improve Vision
The consumption of DHA is beneficial for reducing intraocular pressure, which is an indicator of glaucoma. It can also reduce eye strain and potentially save your vision.
3. Help in controlling diabetes
Some studies have suggested that DHA can help in reducing fasting blood glucose levels. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder in which glucose metabolism is impaired. Researchers found that adding DHA to the diet of mice significantly improved glucose metabolism and decreased type 1 diabetes incidence.
4. Child Development
For a baby’s brain development and vision, DHA is necessary. These organs develop in the last trimester of a woman’s pregnancy and after the first few years following birth.
An examination of 82 babies revealed that mothers DHA levels before childbirth were directly related to their children’s problem-solving abilities at the age of one.
Let’s Debunk Some Myths
Let’s get started with busting myths now.
Myth: Omega-3 supplements should only be taken by people who have heart disease
Fact: Omega-3 fats are considered essential. Everyone should consume them to reap all the benefits.
Myth: One can consume only plant-based ALAs to meet the daily requirement for Omega-3s
Fact: Absolutely untrue! Although ALA can get converted into EPA and DHA, the conversion is very insignificant. Hence, one should consume sources of omega-3 that has all three varieties. Not a fan of fish? Seaweeds is your answer! You can eat the mini green wonders to get all the three essential fatty acids.
Myth: DHA and EPA can only be obtained from fish
Fact: The primary sources are marine fishes, but they can also be found in algae. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan and don’t want to eat fish, you can try nori! It’s the green leaf that’s wrapped around the sushi!
Myth: Overconsumption of omega-3 fatty acids is a good idea
Fact: Everything words great in moderation. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that daily omega-3 intake should not exceed 2,000 mg. According to many reports, high levels of omega-3 can cause blood thinning.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for good health. The best way to ensure adequate omega-3 intake is to consume whole foods such as fatty fish.
Furthermore, studies show that when sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids are consumed, they protect against almost all types of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, etc. It is especially true for the longer-chain omega-3s, DHA and EPA.
Let us know in the comments below if you found this article helpful. Don’t forget to tell us if you noticed any change in your life after consuming omega-3!
After completing this graduation in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Manipal University in 2013, Ankit began rummaging the current Indian market of technology and science. At apolloedoc, Ankit’s job profile consists of cumulating, researching, testing, and verifying products related to tech.
He has a knack for details and catches even the tiniest advantages and flaws that can make or break the product. Since last year, he has been writing for apolloedoc and has been our knight in shining armour when reviewing home appliances.
Ankit’s favourite pastimes consist of jamming onto his guitar with a couple of friends and constantly updating and learning new things! He is also a big-time pet lover and has a cute little pug named Oreo back in Chandigarh. He has bagged many achievements in his college by participating in multiple extracurricular activities.
Writing is something that comes to Ankit naturally. He has his own blog where he posts about coding languages and even provides coaching to students from 12th grade to 2nd year of college. At apolloedoc, Ankit beautifully showcases his knack for the written word by lucidly explaining information in an unbiased way.