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ESSENTIAL FOR YOUR HEALTH

Omega-3: A Fatty Acids Essential for Health

Omega-3 fatty acids receive a lot of attention from the scientific community on a regular basis, and with good reason. These fats have been found to have a positive impact on our overall health as they are found in the membranes of the cells in the body where they positively impact signal pathways, as well as overall cellular health. Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids can positively impact many aspects of our physical and mental health, some of these include:

  • Heart Health – Researcher suggests that omega-3 may improve heart health outcomes, [1-4]. In addition, studies have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids decrease triglycerides and may lower blood pressure [5-9] .
  • Mood – Research suggests that individuals who consume higher amounts of fish, a source of omega-3 or have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood are less likely to report signs and symptoms of depression[10-12]. Furthermore, additional studies suggest that omega-3 may help to alleviate depression and help regulate mood [13, 14].
  • Brain Health – Omega-3 has also been linked to improved cognitive health in a variety of people, including healthy young people and the senior population [15-19]

So, what are omega-3 fatty acids and where are they found?
Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid, meaning we have to get them from the diet for good health, as our body can’t produce them. Of the omega-3 essential fatty acids there are 3 that stand out. They are:

  • ALA (alpha-linolenic acid),
  • EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
  • DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)

ALA is found in greater quantities in green leafy vegetables, plant oils, including nuts and seeds such as walnuts and flaxseeds. While ALA is an omega-3 to provide the health benefits associated with omega-3 it must be converted into the longer-chain EPA or DHA omega-3 fatty acids. Unfortunately, the human body isn’t great at converting ALA. Studies show that we convert ALA into EPA and DHA at a rate of about 5% [20, 21].  This means that while foods like green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds are healthy foods to get in the diet and sources of ALA, they are not very efficient at providing EPA and DHA due to this limited conversion.

Direct sources of the omega-3 EPA and DHA are marine oils, such as fish oils and algal oils.

What about supplementation?
Many people choose to supplement their diet with a fish or algal oil as a direct source of the health promoting omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.

When selecting a supplement choosing a product that has been third party tested by a program like PureCheck is a great to ensure the product is high quality. With PureCheck you can access the third party test results for potency, purity and oxidation for each lot of product online (www.purecheck.net). The results are accessible 24/7 online to provide assurance you are getting a product that is potent, pure and tastes great.

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  1. Casula, M., et al., Long-term effect of high dose omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for secondary prevention of cardiovascular outcomes: A meta-analysis of randomized, placebo controlled trials [corrected]. Atheroscler Suppl, 2013. 14(2): p. 243-51.
  2. Kotwal, S., et al., Omega 3 Fatty acids and cardiovascular outcomes: systematic review and meta-analysis. Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes, 2012. 5(6): p. 808-18.
  3. Marik, P.E. and J. Varon, Omega-3 dietary supplements and the risk of cardiovascular events: a systematic review. Clin Cardiol, 2009. 32(7): p. 365-72.
  4. Wen, Y.T., J.H. Dai, and Q. Gao, Effects of Omega-3 fatty acid on major cardiovascular events and mortality in patients with coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis, 2014. 24(5): p. 470-5.
  5. Miller, P.E., M. Van Elswyk, and D.D. Alexander, Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid and blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Hypertens, 2014. 27(7): p. 885-96.
  6. Cabo, J., R. Alonso, and P. Mata, Omega-3 fatty acids and blood pressure. Br J Nutr, 2012. 107 Suppl 2: p. S195-200.
  7. Wei, M.Y. and T.A. Jacobson, Effects of eicosapentaenoic acid versus docosahexaenoic acid on serum lipids: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Curr Atheroscler Rep, 2011. 13(6): p. 474-83.
  8. Leslie, M.A., et al., A review of the effect of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on blood triacylglycerol levels in normolipidemic and borderline hyperlipidemic individuals. Lipids Health Dis, 2015. 14: p. 53.
  9. Jacobson, T.A., Role of n-3 fatty acids in the treatment of hypertriglyceridemia and cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr, 2008. 87(6): p. 1981S-90S.
  10. Li, F., X. Liu, and D. Zhang, Fish consumption and risk of depression: a meta-analysis. J Epidemiol Community Health, 2016. 70(3): p. 299-304.
  11. Pottala, J.V., et al., Red blood cell fatty acids are associated with depression in a case-control study of adolescents. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids, 2012. 86(4-5): p. 161-5.
  12. Lin, P.Y., S.Y. Huang, and K.P. Su, A meta-analytic review of polyunsaturated fatty acid compositions in patients with depression. Biol Psychiatry, 2010. 68(2): p. 140-7.
  13. Mocking, R.J., et al., Meta-analysis and meta-regression of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for major depressive disorder. Transl Psychiatry, 2016. 6: p. e756.
  14. Sublette, M.E., et al., Meta-analysis of the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in clinical trials in depression. J Clin Psychiatry, 2011. 72(12): p. 1577-84.
  15. Weiser, M.J., C.M. Butt, and M.H. Mohajeri, Docosahexaenoic Acid and Cognition throughout the Lifespan. Nutrients, 2016. 8(2).
  16. van der Wurff, I.S., et al., Association between Blood Omega-3 Index and Cognition in Typically Developing Dutch Adolescents. Nutrients, 2016. 8(1).
  17. Stonehouse, W., et al., DHA supplementation improved both memory and reaction time in healthy young adults: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr, 2013. 97(5): p. 1134-43.
  18. Fontani, G., et al., Cognitive and physiological effects of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in healthy subjects. Eur J Clin Invest, 2005. 35(11): p. 691-9.
  19. Yurko-Mauro, K., et al., Beneficial effects of docosahexaenoic acid on cognition in age-related cognitive decline. Alzheimers Dement, 2010. 6(6): p. 456-64.
  20. Plourde, M. and S.C. Cunnane, Extremely limited synthesis of long chain polyunsaturates in adults: implications for their dietary essentiality and use as supplements. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab, 2007. 32(4): p. 619-34.
  21. Brenna, J.T., Efficiency of conversion of alpha-linolenic acid to long chain n-3 fatty acids in man. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, 2002. 5(2): p. 127-32.