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Should I Get Omega-3s from Flax or Fish?

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By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Fish Oil Supplement

7Although flaxseed oil has several health benefits, are they just as effective as fish oil in providing omega-3 fatty acids to your diet? Many people take flaxseed oil capsules believing that these are meeting their nutritional needs for omega-3s. Can oil from flaxseed be just as good as fish oil? Here are few facts you should consider when choosing an omega-3 supplement.

Types of Omega-3s
There are 3 types of omega-3 fatty acids:

Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA)
DocosaHexaenoic Acid (DHA)
EicosoPentaenoic Acid (EPA)

DHA and EPA are the two most important omega-3 fatty acids and are known to have a beneficial impact on several major aspects of our health such as heart health, brain health, bone and joint health and more.

There are basically two food sources to get omega-3 fatty acids:

  1. Plant-derived sources contain ALA, a precursor to DHA and EPA. Sources include flax seeds, chia seeds and other vegetable sources.
  2. Marine-derived sources contain DHA and EPA. Sources include fatty fish such as tuna, salmon and sardines.

ALA is found in vegetable oils such as flaxseed and rapeseed (used to make canola oil), but the degree at which the body converts ALA appears to be unreliable. ALA to EPA conversion may range from 8 to 20 percent while conversion to DHA appears to be much lower ranging from 0.5 to 9 percent. Interestingly, women are able to ALA to EPA 2.5 times better than men.

No matter which way you look at it, evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids derived from plant sources such as flaxseeds just do not provide the beneficially helpful dose of EPA and DHA found in marine-based omega-3 sources, such as fatty fish or fish oil supplements. Tom Brenna, a professor of nutritional sciences (Cornell University in Ithaca, New York) said, "…conversion of ALA to EPA is very low, and to DHA is even less – essentially negligible," ISSFAL stated. "These very low conversion rates mean that ALA cannot meet the body's need for DHA."

The Importance of DHA to Health
DHA may prove to be vital to our health in several ways. It is the predominant fatty acid present in the brain, retina of the eye and in spermatozoa.

The potential role of DHA is being investigated in neurological functions, while its role in promoting cardiovascular health has been affirmed by prestigious bodies such as the American Health Association and World Health Organization. Scientists are still investigating DHA's role in several major functions of the body. As a vital dietary component, DHA holds even more of a promising future. Deficiencies in DHA at the neonatal level have been associated with visual impairment and delayed cognitive development.

Since conversion of ALA to DHA is severely restricted in plant-derived sources of omega-3 fatty acids, a reliable intake of DHA can only be achieved through the regular consumption of fatty fish and/or fish oil supplements.

Fish Oil Supplements are the best source of EPA and DHA
Low dose fish oil supplements may not provide the health-protective benefits that high doses of EPA and DHA may help to provide. You may want to consider taking fish oil supplements, such as Triple Strength Omega 3, that contain 2000 mg of total omega fatty acid content out of which is 800 mg is EPA and 400 mg is DHA. Look for fish oil supplements that contain pharmaceutical grade fish as this is essential in helping to avoid impurities often found in fish and fish oil. Pharmaceutical grade fish oils have purity level of 90 percent and above.



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