Article at a glance
- Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for health, and while there are many types of Omega-3 fatty acids, three of them have gained the most recognition and should be understood as distinct molecules with different impacts on health.
- All Omega-3 Fatty acids should be understood as distinct molecules with different impacts on health.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for the growth, maintenance, and wellbeing of our overall brain health.
- The easiest way to determine if you are meeting your DHA and EPA needs is with an Omega-3 index test.
Since the “low fat” craze that swept the nation decades ago, research has helped dietary fats regain an important place in the food chain. Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, are dietary fats that scientists have deemed essential for health. While there are several types of Omega-3 fatty acids, three of them have gained the most recognition and should be understood as distinct molecules with different impacts on health.
ALA + EPA + DHA
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the most common Omega-3 fatty acid in a typical diet, is commonly found in plants such as vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. While the primary role of ALA is to act as the parent fatty acid to two other types of Omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), the degree of conversion between the three molecules is unreliable and restricted with less than 10% of ALA actually converting to DHA + EPA.
DHA and EPA, which can also be derived directly from marine sources such as marine algae or fatty fish, have been found to have a significant impact on health and are a dietary necessity. Together they have been associated with neuroprotective properties, improvements in cardiovascular disease risk factors, autoimmune diseases, and a reduction in chronic inflammation. While EPA + DHA are often found together, each plays a unique role in human health individually as well.
EPA, for example, has been found to have beneficial effects on mood disorders and play a critical role in depression and depression prevention. DHA, on the other hand, is a major structural component of the eye and brain, and consuming adequate amounts are linked to a reduced risk of macular degeneration and prevention of age-related mental decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s Disease. DHA intake during pregnancy and early in life is also essential and associated with numerous brain benefits for children such as higher intelligence, and decreased incidence of cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Am I getting what I need?
The fastest and most efficient way to determine if you are meeting your DHA + EPA needs is with an Omega-3 index test, a simple blood test that can be performed at home with a small finger prick. If you are like over 90% of Americans that are falling short in DHA + EPA intake, you can simply increase the consumption of foods rich in these fats or add in a dietary supplement.
To obtain the recommended amounts of DHA and EPA from whole food, one would have to consume at least two 3.5oz servings of oily fish per week, or theoretically, over a half a pound of flax or chia seeds a day. For those who have reservations about increasing fish intake in their diet, or don’t want to be picking chia seeds out of their teeth all day long, marine algal oil is a great sustainable and vegan option. With a greater understanding of the individual roles and health implications of these powerful nutrients, you can begin to ensure that you are getting the nutrients you need for optimal health. How are you going to get your DHA + EPA today?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, policy or position of Trident Brands Incorporated or affiliated entities. It is important to understand that while a dietary supplement may have been shown through clinical study to be beneficial for certain health conditions, they are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or alleviate the effects of any disease. Please also note that Bryce Wylde has a pre-existing financial relationship with Trident Brands as Chief Innovation Officer.
Most importantly, the content herein is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioner with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.