Omega 3 and the Essential Fatty Acids

By on November 5, 2015
Omega 3

Omega 3s are part of a family of essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids, or EFAs, are fatty acids that humans must ingest because the body requires them for good health but cannot make them, therefore must get them in our diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated molecules, meaning they have several double bonds in their structure. The ‘omega 3’ is to do with the position of the first carbon=carbon double bond which is located at carbon number 3 from the omega end.

Each fatty acid has a long chain of carbon atoms, with one carboxylic acid end and one methyl end, called the omega. In comparison to a omega 6s which has its first double bond in omega-6 position.

ALA, EPA and DHA

The three most important types of omega 3s are ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).

ALA is mainly found in plants, while DHA and EPA are mainly found in animal foods.

ALA is not active in the human body, and needs to be converted into the active forms, EPA and DHA.

This process is very inefficient which makes ALA not a good sole source of omega 3s. (1,2)

ALA is found in flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds and soybeans.

EPA is mostly found in animal products, such as oily fish. It has several functions in the human body but its main function is to  be converted into DHA.

DHA is the most important and are essential for proper fetus development, immune system in infants, improved cardiovascular function and reducing major coronary events. (3) DHA also play structural roles in the brain and retina of the eyes. (4)

A mixed amount of results from scientific research have shown omega 3s to improve insulin. (5) Having poor insulin sensitivity will result in your body requiring larger amounts of insulin in response to a rise in blood glucose. This can be a sign that your body is having difficulty metabolising glucose, and this can indicate wider health problems, leading to diabetes or metabolic health issues.

Like EPA, DHA is mostly found in animal products like oily fish, eggs and  full fat dairy products.

At the end of the day, omega-3 fatty acids are important, and most modern diets are severely lacking in them.

If you don’t like fish, then consider taking tablets or liquid, getting a combined 1000mg of DHA and EPA per day. It is therefore important to observe the quantity of DHA and EPA in your supplement. A 1-gram fish oil capsule does not always yield 1g of EPA and DHA, as most of it is filler.

 

Further Info –

http://examine.com/supplements/fish-oil/

 

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References -
  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16188209
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18522621/
  3. http://advances.nutrition.org/content/3/1/1.full
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20478353
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19202385

 

Scott Edmed

About Scott Edmed

I am currently serving the Royal Air Force as a pilot with a huge passion for nutrition and training, having competed in physique competitions and playing rugby and cricket for the RAF.