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Fish Oil, Omega-3s, DHA, and EPA : What's The Buzz

Omega 3 fatty acids: which fats do they belong to?

Unfortunately, we all become a bit hesitant when the word 'fat' enters our menu. And that is not always realistic. Some fats are essential for our health. We divide fats into saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Unsaturated fatty acids are generally known as the 'healthy' fats.

It is often assumed that saturated fats are bad by definition, but that is not entirely correct. Saturated fats are mainly found in animal products such as beef, pork, full-fat dairy products and, to a lesser extent, in poultry and eggs. The problem is that we quickly consume too much of these fats.

How do you ensure that you consume less saturated fat? Simple: by adding more fatty fish and vegetable sources of omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. In this article we explain why this shift is so important.

Are omega 3 fatty acids essential?

Omega 3 is also known as fish oil, because we mainly get it from oily fish and shellfish. In addition to omega 3, there are other types of essential fatty acids, such as omega 6 and omega 9. Essential means that the body does not produce a substance itself and you must therefore ensure that you get enough of it. To get enough of the above nutrients, you are therefore dependent on nutrition and supplementation.

DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid)

DHA is an important building block for the brain. A mother's intake of DHA contributes to the development of the brain and vision of breastfed babies. DHA also helps to maintain normal brain function afterwards and to maintain sharp vision. Higher concentrations of DHA can be found in fish, shellfish and crustaceans. In particular, fatty fish such as mackerel, herring, sardines and salmon. Grass-fed meat also contains small amounts of the fatty acid.2

EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid)

In addition to the aforementioned Omega 3 fatty acid DHA, there is EPA. Eicosapentaenoic acid is also an omega-3 fatty acid that we find in animal products, especially oily fish and (grass-fed) red meat. The recommendations for EPA now always go hand in hand with DHA, so together they are good for blood pressure and for your heart.

Although it is clear that EPA and DHA combined have health benefits, the different functions of the two are also more often highlighted in studies. More research is required at this point, but these omega-3 fatty acids may receive their own recommendations in the future.

Omega-3 EPA/DHA fatty acids Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are two long-chain omega-3 fatty acids that are crucial for health and the prevention and/or inhibition of a number of chronic (inflammatory) disorders, including cardiovascular disease, allergies, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and depression. A sufficient DHA consumption aids in the prevention of pregnancy problems, the healthy pre- and postnatal growth and (brain) development of infants and (young) children, and the prevention and/or suppression of dementia and age-related cognitive decline. Compared to the food from which humans developed, the modern Western diet is insufficient in (long-chain) omega-3 fatty acids.

The health benefits of EPA and DHA are substantial. DHA and EPA are phospholipids found in cell membranes and have an impact on the composition and functionality of cell membranes. They are also precursors to endocannabinoids, which among other things, have regulatory effects on the brain.

EPA is a precursor of eicosanoids, which are locally active, paracrine tissue hormones that, among other things, have anti-inflammatory, vasodilator, and thrombosis-inhibiting properties. SPMs are derived from EPA and DHA (specialized pro-resolving mediators).

SPMs are crucial in preventing atherosclerosis, lowering ischemia-reperfusion injury, reducing pain, increasing and accelerating tissue regeneration, and wound healing (e.g. after myocardial infarction). SPMs promote the pathogens' eradication in microbiological infections (bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites).

Moreover, the gut microbiome can produce more short-chain fatty acids thanks to the energy provided by EPA and DHA, which can also operate as an energy source.

Foods High in Omega - 3s

EPA and DHA omega-3s are found in many different sources. The vast majority are obtained from marine sources, such as fatty or oily fish, fish body or liver oils, marine crustaceans like krill, marine microorganisms like algae, or, more recently, a number of land plants that have undergone genetic modification to produce EPA and DHA.

  • Seafood. Generally, seafood is the healthiest way to eat EPA and DHA due to all the additional nutrients that the fish has. Salmon, tuna, mackerel, and pollock are good omega-3 selections. Forage fish species with a smaller body size are also a good source of EPA and DHA. Sardines, anchovies, herring, mackerel, capelin, and hoki are included in this group. To obtain 250 mg of EPA and DHA per day, the majority of official recommendations suggest eating 2-3 meals of fatty fish each week.
  • Supplements. The best approach to get enough EPA and DHA for your health is through supplements. It is up to you to decide which of the several marine sources used to make supplements—all of which are as valuable in terms of supplying EPA and DHA—you choose.

    Achovy oil
    The main oil used in omega-3 supplements comes from anchovies, which are caught in a variety of fisheries across the world, including those in Turkey, Peru, Chile, and Morocco.

    Fish liver oil
    One of the first omega-3 dietary supplements to be introduced commercially in the modern market was cod liver oil. Although it was initially promoted for its vitamin content rather than its EPA and DHA, cod liver oil is still a well-liked source of these fats.

    Pollock oil
    Most pollock oil is made from Alaskan pollock captured in the liver.

    Salmon oil
    In order to create "virgin" or minimally processed salmon oils that retain some of the nutrients lost during conventional processing, salmon byproducts can be cold-pressed.

    Tuna oil
    Due to their high DHA content, tuna oils, which are normally produced from the leftovers of skipjack and yellowfin tuna rather than the more contentious bluefin tuna, are frequently used to enhance newborn formulae.

    Fish roe oil
    Supplements for the diet also sell oils made from the roe of various fish, including herring.

    Krill oil
    The tiny crustaceans from the waters of the Antarctic provide a phospholipid supply of EPA and DHA in the form of krill oil supplements, which are often available in a smaller pill.

    Calanus oil
    The market for EPA and DHA supplements derived from calanus, a tiny crab from the Arctic, is likewise modest but expanding.

    Squid oil
    Several supplements make use of DHA-rich oil derived from the by-products of the squid flesh industry.

    Green-shelled mussel oil
    Green-shelled mussels from New Zealand are utilized in supplements and include EPA and DHA as well.

    Algae oil
    Although DHA-containing algae oil has been available for decades, other algae sources have just recently been widely available. Now, there are options for EPA from algae, additional sources of DHA from algae, and mixtures of the two with varying amounts of EPA and DHA. The sources of omega-3 algae should not be confused with other algae, such as spirulina or chlorella.

    Genetically modified canola and camelina oil
    These two plants were altered to express EPA and DHA, and they are terrestrial plants. First commercial goods will concentrate on aquaculture, and both are currently undergoing agricultural trials in various nations.

  • Fortified Foods. Some consumers prefer to obtain EPA and DHA from food sources other than seafood or supplements.

    Fortified dairy. Dairy products like milks and spreads made with butter or margarine can be fortified with EPA and DHA oils.

    Fortified eggs. To increase the EPA and DHA content of their eggs, egg farmers can feed birds EPA and DHA diet.

    Baked goods. Manufacturers have even added EPA and DHA oils to baked items like bread and cookies.

    Fortified meats. Higher levels of EPA and DHA can be found in meat when EPA and DHA are fed to terrestrial cattle. Beef, chicken, and lamb with greater EPA and DHA levels have been tried by manufacturers.

How Much Omega - 3s Should You Include In Your Diet?

Generally, eating fish at least twice a week is a smart method to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. To be more precise, the USDA advises adults should consume 8 or more ounces of oily fish every week, or around 250 milligrams (mg) of omega-3s.

Before making significant changes to your diet, even healthy ones, it is always advisable to speak with your doctor. You can prevent any consequences from allergies in this way. Also, your doctor is aware of the methods and substances that will benefit your particular health condition and you the most.


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