Benefits of Omega-3s.

One of the hottest topics in the news lately are the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, which are most commonly found in oily fish. It has been reported in several news stories that the these miracle fats can:

  • prevent the growth of aggressive breast cancer tumors[1]
  • promote longer life[2][3]
  • prevent cardiovascular disease[4]
  • may prevent COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)[5]
  • assist in treating rheumatoid arthritis
  • assist in treating depression, bipolar disorder, and many more[6]
  • cure acne

Bioavailability of Omega-3s

What is bioavailability?

The short anwer is that something is bioavailable if your body is actually able to use it. You need to consume less of a vitamin if it is highly bioavailable. If a vitamin is not very bioavailable, you may be flushing your money down the toilet...literally. The technical definition is that bioavailability is the " fraction of an administered dose of unchanged drug that reaches the systemic circulation."[7]

Which Omega-3s are the most bioavailable?

SardinesCredit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tintedglasssky/

Whole foods will always provide the best sources of vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids. You will receive a host of benefits without loading up your medicine cabinet with supplements. Whole food sources are oily, cold water fish such as:

  • salmon
  • mackerel
  • sardines
  • herring
  • anchovies
  • trout
  • tuna

Vegan and Vegetarian Sources of Omega-3s.

flaxCredit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bness/

Omega-3 fatty acids can also been found in plant foods, though it does excist in a different form.[8] As long as you are healthy, you body is capable of converting the omega-3 fatty acids in the plants below into a usable form, but this does mean they are less bioavailable.

  • flaxseed
  • chia seeds
  • hemp seeds
  • perilla oil
  • cauliflower
  • purslane
  • brussels sprouts

A word of warning--some of these sources also contain a large amount of omega-6 fatty acids, which do not have the health benefits of omega-3s.

The importance of balance--omega-3/omega-6, that is.

 Chris Kresser does an excellent job describing this balance on his blog. Estimates based on the current Standard American Diet (appropriately abbreviated SAD) are that typical consumption of these fatty acids are in a 20:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega-3. An ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is closer to 1:1, though research indicates that ANY reduction in the ratio can result in major health benefits.

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