What is omega-3 fatty acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that we must consume either in foods or supplementation, as the body isn’t capable of producing this fat by itself. This form of fat is sub-categorized into Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA); docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). The majority of health benefits linked to omega-3 consumption come from EPA and DHA, found predominantly in animal sources including salmon and mackerel. ALA – found naturally in walnuts and flaxseed – is quickly processed by the body as energy and has a low conversion rate to EPA and DHA, therefore EPA and DHA consumption becomes even more of a necessity.
The reason the body needs this type of fat is because they have an essential role in constructing the cell membrane, which has an impact on cellular function. Furthermore, they enable to the body to synthesis hormones responsible for maintaining cardio vascular health.
Who should take omega-3’s?
The RDA for omega-3 consumption is around 250mg per day; specified as the guidelines for general health. If you believe your intake is less than this, I would recommend supplementing accordingly. A potential barrier and indicator that intake may be insufficient is if you are on a vegetarian diet as EPA and DHA intake will inevitably be lacking.
Like anything, you also need to be careful not to consume too much omega 3, therefore monitoring intake prior to supplementing is crucial. Excessive doses of omega-3 can lead to increase levels of low density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as ‘bad cholesterol’; poor blood sugar regulation and potential bleeding issues.
Natural Sources of omega 3 (EPA and DHA)?
Salmon; mackerel; cod liver oil and sardines.
Natural sources of omega 3 (ALA)?
Walnuts and Flaxseed