What’s the Difference:
A Breakdown of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Many foods from eggs to cereal now claim to contain the power-house essential fatty acid known to promote heart health, support joint health, improve emotional well-being and possibly help protect against cancer, Alzheimer’s, and vision problems — omega-3.
Unfortunately, all that advertising falls short considering the majority of these products contain ALA, found in flaxseed, canola and soy, which may not have the same benefits of DHA and EPA, the omega-3s found in salmon, trout, other fish, and algae that are linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
Plant-derived alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) has been studied in a limited number of investigations, and while some studies suggest a potential of protection from cardiovascular disease, this potential remains to be proven in intervention group studies. In contrast, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have been studied in thousands of investigations supporting evidence that these omega-3 fatty acids do in fact reduce the chance of a heart attack and lowering blood triglyceride levels.
So what’s the difference?
DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) is an omega-3 essential fatty acid found most often in fish oil that can reduce the level of blood triglycerides in humans, which may reduce the risk of heart disease, and is the most abundant essential fatty acid (polyunsaturated fatty acids, PUFAs) in the brain comprising 40%. Low levels of DHA result in the reduction of brain serotonin levels and have been associated with ADD, ADHD, Alzheimer's disease, and depression, among other diseases.
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) is a member of the omega-3 fatty acid family responsible for regulating hormonal balance, immune system function, brain function, and blood supply to tissues, thus reducing the incidence of inflammatory diseases. EPA is also beneficial in lowering high cholesterol and hypertension (high blood pressure), helping prevent heart disease and stroke. Research has shown a lack of EPA weakens the body’s immune system, or ability to fight disease.
ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid) is the major plant omega-3 fatty acid. Flaxseed oil is the richest natural source of this fatty acid, but alpha-linolenic acid is also present in large amounts in a variety of other plant oils, such as canola or soybean, and is also found in walnuts. ALA is thought to have a major biochemical role as the principal precursor in the body’s formation of the long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, EPA and DHA - meaning the human body converts ALA into EPA and DHA, but with great difficulty. The conversion rate is slow and inefficient (between one and five per cent), and can be inhibited by various conditions such as a diet high in linolenic acid (omega-6), trans fatty acids such as fast foods and baked goods, alcohol intake, certain health conditions, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies (B3, B6, C, zinc, magnesium).
“The good news is that omega-3s from fish oil can reduce the risk of heart attack, and the research is building on other health benefits,” said Center for Science in the Public Interest senior nutritionist David Schardt. “But get your omega-3s from fatty fish like salmon, or take fish oil or algal oil capsules. Many foods with omega-3 claims have only or mostly ALA, which may not prevent anything.”
So the next time you find yourself browsing your local grocery store aisle and read the label on a carton of eggs that does include DHA and EPA, be aware it contains no more of those omega-3s than the amount in one and a half teaspoons of salmon, the richest source of omega-3s, according to CSPI. Remember the only thing that is self-evident, or obvious, is that ALA is simply not as effective as DHA and EPA when it comes to benefiting your health.
For more information on Wellness check out the Health and Wellness section of the Library!
Omega-3's and omega-6's belong to a family of fats known as essential fatty acids. The right balance of these two types of fatty acids is important for the healthy functioning of many parts of the body, including brain development. Unfortunately, because the human body cannot manufacture these essential fatty acids, they must be provided through diet. These omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are found in fish, and seafood, some nuts and seeds and green leafy vegetables.
In a well-balanced diet, both omega-3's and omega-6's should be present. In modern diets, however, saturated fats and vegetable oils – all loaded with omega-6's – have become predominant. At the same time, the intake of omega-3 fatty acids from fish have declined while modern farming and commercial food production have further stripped foods of omega-3 content in an effort to prolong shelf life. The ideal omega-6 to omega-3 relationship is quoted at 4 to 1, but in persons who do not eat fish twice a week, experts believe that ratio is closer to 20 to 1, and is responsible for many of the health problems that plague us.
Given the heavy metals and other toxins found in fish, people are undertandably concerned about consuming significant amounts of seafood. And yet, by not consuming fish, we all miss the opportunity to obtain important omega-3 fats in the diet. Supplementation with a high-quality omega-3 product may be the answer.
WINOmeg3complex™ is a pharmaceutical grade omega-3 ethyl ester concentrate which is obtained from purified fish oil. The basic material is crude deep-sea fish oil.
WINOmeg3complex ™ contains 88% omega-3 ethyl esters with a 60% concentration of EPA for maximum anti-inflammatory benefit, making it approximately three times more potent than most omega-3 supplements currently available. This high concentration and optimal EPA to DHA blend is enhanced with natural lemon oil in the soft gel capsule for great lemon taste. One WINOmeg3complex™ soft gel capsule supplies 540mg of EPA and 160mg of DHA. The ratio of EPA to DHA is 3.3 to 1; a balance many experts believe is optimal for good health.
** This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
For more information - visit our Wellness section!