Omega-3s 101Odds are you've heard about omega-3 fatty acids. And for good reason! From brain development to heart health, they've been found to have many different health benefits. Read on to get a quick breakdown of the basics.
What are omega-3s?
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats. While they have many functions in our body and are important for good health, our bodies cannot produce them, so we have to get them through our diet1.
The three key types of omega-3 fats are:
- ALA (alpha-linolenic acid): Found in certain high-fat plant foods, especially flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts1.
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid): Found in fatty fish, seafood, fish oil and algal oil1.
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid): Found in fatty fish, seafood, fish oils, and algal oil1.
Keep in mind, while ALA is an omega-3, it needs to be converted into the longer-chain EPA or DHA omega-3 fatty acids to provide any of the related health benefits. Unfortunately, the human body isn't great at converting ALA. Studies show that we only convert ALA into EPA and DHA at a rate of about 5%2,3. So, many people choose to supplement their diet with EPA and DHA from fish or algal oil.
Why are omega-3s so important?
Omega-3 fatty acids have been studied thoroughly over the years. Research suggests that they can positively impact many aspects of our physical and mental health, including:
- Support the maintenance of good health
- Help to relieve the symptoms of dry eye and support for proper tear function
- Help support and maintain cardiovascular health
- Help to reduce serum triglycerides
- Help to reduce the pain in rheumatoid arthritis in adults when consumed in conjunction with conventional therapy
- Help support the development of the brain, eyes and nerves in children up to 12 years of age
How can I get more omega-3s?
If you don't eat fatty fish regularly (or are a vegetarian or vegan!) you may want to consider taking an omega-3 supplement with EPA and DHA.
Omega-3 supplements are typically made from fish and algal oils. Be aware though that their quality and potency can vary widely. In Canada, look for supplements that have a Natural Product Number (NPN). The NPN ensures that the product has met the standards for quality, safety and efficacy set by Health Canada for Natural Health Products. When it comes to health benefits from omega-3, it’s the EPA+DHA that matter. Check the medicinal ingredients panel and make your choice based on the amount of EPA+DHA. It’s also worth looking at the serving size and figuring out the cost per milligram of EPA+DHA.
Made from sustainably sourced fish or plant-based ingredients, our NutraSea and NutraVege Omega-3 supplements are ultra-pure, great-tasting and unsurpassed in quality and innovation. Plus, they're PureCheck Certified –so you can trust that what you read on the label matches the product inside.
- Harris WS. Omega-3 fatty acids. In: Coates PM, Betz JM, Blackman MR, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. 2nd ed. London and New York: Informa Healthcare; 2010:577-86.
Plourde, M. and S.C. Cunnane, Extremely limited synthesis of long chain polyunsaturates in adults: implications for their dietary essentiality and use as supplements. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab, 2007. 32(4): p. 619-34.
3. Brenna, J.T., Efficiency of conversion of alpha-linolenic acid to long chain n-3 fatty acids in man. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, 2002. 5(2): p. 127-32.