While most people are aware of the health benefits of omegs-3 fat, there is still a lot of confusion regarding the different omega-3 fatty acids. It is important to clear this out because not all omega-3 fatty acids are of equal effectiveness.
The major sources of omega-3 fats are fish oil and the cheaper flax oil. While they are both omega-3 oils, they provide different omega-3 fatty acids. Flax oil is a source of the parent omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), while fish oil is a source of the longer chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). The important distinction lies in the fact that it is EPA and DHA which are the active omega-3 fatty acids that give rise to health benefits such as fat loss, cardiovascular health and brain function.
While our bodies can convert ALA to EPA and DHA in the body, this conversion is extremely inefficient. It has been shown that the conversion of ALA to EPA is only between 0.3% and 8%, and the conversion of ALA to DHA is often undetectable in men. Conversion of ALA to long-chain n–3 fatty acids appears is more efficient in women. Up to 21% of consumed ALA in woman is converted to EPA and up to 9% is converted to DHA. Even so, it is not enough to get an effective dose of EPA and DHA (2-3 g), which can only be obtained by consuming fish or supplementing with fish oil, krill oil or algae oil. Algae oil is a vegetable source of DHA, while fish oil contains both EPA and DHA. The low conversion efficiency of ALA to EPA and DHA is a concern for people with less than optimal health and the elderly. This is another reason to supplement with fish oil instead of flax oil for most people.
Therefore, to ensure adequate amounts of the active omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which is around 2-3 g, intake of these fatty acids via fatty fish and/or fish oil and algae oil is recommended, since we cannot rely on our body’s conversion of ALA.
To obtain the optimal benefits of fish oil and find the highest quality fish oil, you need to do three things;
- By a product that only sources its fish from pristine waters.
- By only a product that uses the process of molecular
distillation, which will remove any existing impurities.
- By only a product that uses a fish source that is naturally
high in DHA and EPA, because not all are.