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Not all Omega 3’s are Equal

What are Omega 3 fatty acids?1,6

Omega-3s (short for omega-3 fatty acids) are types of essential fats found in foods and in the human body. They are also sold as dietary supplements. The family of omega-3 fatty acids is comprised of at least 11 different types of fatty acids however, the three primary ones are involved in human assisting the human body.  They are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).1

  • EPA contributes to the normal functioning of the heart and may lower the risk of cardiovascular events in those diagnoses with heart disease. EPA may also be involved in reducing inflammation in the body.1,6
  • DHA is important for the functions and structure of cell membranes as well as overall health. It’s the brain’s favourite fat for building membranes. for example, the brain is about 60% fat, making it the fattiest organ in the body. Ninety-seven percent of the brain’s omega-3 fatty acid content is DHA. DHA also contributes to the maintenance of normal vision.1,6,9
  • ALA is mostly found in plants and is not biologically active in the body. It needs to be converted into EPA and/or DHA to become active, but the body is quite inefficient in converting ALA to EPA and DHA which is why supplementation is important.1,6

However, the three primary ones involved in human physiology are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

  • EPA may influence manifestations or symptoms of inflammation, mood swings, low immunity, poor sleep, or blood flow and emotional distress.1,6
  • DHA is important for the functions and structure of cell membranes as well as overall health. It’s the brain’s favourite fat for building membranes. for example, the brain is about 60% fat, making it the fattiest organ in the body. Ninety-seven percent of the brain’s omega-3 fatty acid content is DHA. 1,6,9
  • ALA is mostly found in plants and is not biologically active in the body. It needs to be converted into EPA and/or DHA to become active, but this conversion process is highly inefficient in humans.1,6

Sources of omega 3 supplements?4

There are several supplements that contain omega-3s which include:

  • Fish oil supplements contain EPA and DHA.
  • Fish liver oil supplements, such as cod liver oil, contain EPA and DHA, and they also contain vitamins A and D in amounts that vary from product to product.
  • Krill oil contains EPA and DHA.
  • Algae is a vegetarian or plant-derived source of DHA; some also contain EPA.
  • Seeds and nuts, like flax seeds and walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

How much omega-3 to take per day?3-5

The American Heart Association recommends a minimum 1,000 mg of omega-3s daily for healthy adults and 2000 mg or more per day for deficiency-related health conditions. The FDA advise that the tolerable upper limit for adults is 3000 mg of Omega-3’s per day.3,4

To date, there is no official recommended daily allowance for EPA and DHA however, most health organisations agree that 250–500 mg of combined EPA and DHA is enough for adults to maintain their overall health and wellbeing.5

The labels can be confusing for example, a product may provide 1,000 mg of fish oil, but its levels of EPA and DHA could be much lower. Depending on the concentration of EPA and DHA in a dose, you may need to take as many as eight capsules to reach the recommended daily amount.

Is it better to have higher DHA or EPA intake?

If you are choosing between DHA and EPA, it is important to consider your specific health needs and choose accordingly. Most fish oil supplements have a one-to-one ratio of DHA to EPA. If your goal is to reduce cholesterol, triglyceride profile and inflammation symptoms like redness, heat, pain, swelling and tenderness, then a standard fish oil with more EPA may be desirable. However, if you want to support development growth, repair and functional capacity of the brain, heart, skin, and eyes then consider a fish oil with a higher concentration of DHA.

Nativa Complex® Omega-3 is a high potency supplement containing 1000 mg fish oil consisting of an EPA and DHA.

What should you look for in an omega-3 supplement?1-4

Given the increasing environmental pollution of our oceans, it is important to purchase from a reputable manufacturer that follows Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and takes the necessary steps to purify the oil.

Tip: 1000 mg of Omega-3 fats and 1000 mg of Fish Oil are not the same! It’s important to consider how much EPA and DHA is in a supplement, not just how much fish oil it contains. 1,4

We recommend that you look at the labels of supplements and compare the ingredients list which will show all nutrients present and quantities of EPA and DHA within the product.

 

References:

  1. Kirsten Nunez (11 October 2023). Zone Nutrition: Fish Oil: EPA to DHA Ratio What Counts! Accessed 14 December 2023 Available from: https://zonenutrition.me/nutrition/fish-oil-epa-and-dha-are-what-counts/

  2. James Kingsland and Alexandra Sanfins (21 May 2021). Medical News Today: Heart health: Not all omega-3s are equal. Accessed 14 December 2023 Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/heart-health-not-all-omega-3s-are-equal

  3. Katherine Marengo and Timothy Huzar (15 May 2022). Medical News Today: What to know about omega-3 fatty acids. Accessed 14 December 2023 Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-to-know-about-omega-3-fatty-acids

  4. NCCIH National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health (May 2022) Omega-3 Supplements: In Depth. Accessed 14 December 2023 Available from: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/omega3-supplements-in-depth

  5. Amy Richter and Freydis Hjalmarsdottir (13 July 2023). Health Line: How Much Omega-3 Should You Take per Day? Accessed 14 December 2023 Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-omega-3

  6. Jeremy Schmoe (2 June 2023). The Functional Neurology Centre:  DHA versus EPA in Fish Oil. Accessed 14 December 2023 Available from: https://thefnc.com/research/dha-versus-epa-in-fish-oil/

  7. Guan Yu Lim (26-Jan-2021) Nutra ingredients Asia: First-of-a-kind study finds ratio of EPA to DHA in omega-3 supplements affect heart disease risk factors differently. Accessed 14 December 2023 Available from: https://www.nutraingredients-asia.com/Article/2021/01/26/First-of-a-kind-study-finds-ratio-of-EPA-to-DHA-in-omega-3-supplements-affect-heart-disease-risk-factors-differently-Meta-analysis

  8. Admin (20-February-2021) True Basics: Role of EPA and DHA for a Healthy Life. Accessed 14 December 2023 Available from: https://www.truebasics.com/blog/role-of-epa-and-dha-for-a-healthy-life/

  9. Carla Montrod (21-April-2023) What’s the Difference Between EPA vs. DHA? Accessed 14 December 2023 Available from: https://www.takecareof.com/articles/epa-vs-dha

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