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The Fat Battle: Omega-3 Fatty Acid

Filed Under: Supplements at 11:01 am | By: Brandi Spade, Senior Editor
spirulina.jpgYou’ve heard of omega-3 fatty acids by now, but do you know the difference between all of the variations?  Does it matter which you take, or from what source it comes?  Is it really as important to your diet as some experts say?  All of these questions and more surround the popular omega-3 debate. 

Three types of omega-3 fatty acid exist on the market: ALA, DHA and EPA.  Yet, all three can provide significant benefits to the human body.  Alpha-linolenic acid(ALA) is derived mostly from oil found in certain seeds, most popularly flaxseed, canola and hemp.  The body converts ALA to DHA, but it is often a very slow process.  DHA and EPA are essential fatty acids derived from fish oil or marine algae (where the fish originally obtain their omega-3 content). 

These omega-3s are beneficial in the body, mostly for controlling inflammation and promoting brain function.  However, they are in competition with omega-6s in the body.  Omega-6 actually promotes inflammation, yet is much more prevalent in our day to day diet.  Increasing omega-3 content in the body can help to reduce the risk and occurrence of heart attack and stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, prostate cancer and depression.  DHA and EPA in combination are the most potent forms of omega-3 fatty acids, but if you are a vegetarian there is no need to feel disheartened.

In addition to ALA plant and seed sources, DHA and EPA can also be obtained from non-animal sources.  Spirulina and other microalgae are good sources of DHA and EPA.  In fact, remember that fish obtain their high content of EPA from the microalgae they take in.  If you’re not a vegetarian, but are worried about mercury content in fish, supplements are tested for mercury and the process by which the pills are created serves to remove most if not all mercury found within the fish oil.  Both methods are relatively safe, depending upon which source you prefer.  Much evidence supports adding some healthy omega-3s to your daily diet, no matter what form they come in.

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