Scientist and researchers has found numerous health benefits of essential fatty acids.
From cardiovascular health to healthy joints and mental function, essential fatty acids (EFA’s) provides vital nutrition for many of the body’s most critical functions. In fact Omega-3 fatty acids are so important it was included as one of our “Seven Basic Supplements for Good Health”
It is important not to get confused by the 3 letter acronyms in the EFA (essential fatty acid) world – DHA, EPA, ALA, GLA ect.
There are different types of EFA’s like discussed in our previous blog (omega3, omega6 & omega9) they are derived from linolenic acid, linoleic acid and oleic acid, respectively. They also come from various sources like fish oil, flax seed oil, cod liver oil etc.
Here follows a short guide to help you choose the right supplements a little easier.
ALA stands for linolenic acid. It is found in plat-based sources like flex and hemp seed oil and some types of walnuts. ALA is not produced naturally by the body.
EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acids. It is naturally occurring in the body, but it also comes from sources like coldwater fish and fatty fish. About 8% of the human brain is made up of EPA and DHA.
General health attributes by EPA: Target healthy heart and body systems
- Support cardiovascular health
- Promotes healthy metabolism
- Reduces joint pain and inflammation
- Support healthy aging
DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid. Like EPA, found in coldwater fish. However it also plays a role development of healthy eyes, brain and nervous system. It is also known as an important memory support nutrient.
General health attributes by EPA: Target healthy mood, mind and memory
- Support memory, learning, focus and concentration
- Promotes cognitive health as we age
- Support optimal brain function
- Protect eyes against age related damage
- Support positive mood and behaviour
- Support the developing fetus, infant and child
GLAGLA stands for Gamma-linolenic acidi an omega-6 fatty acid. This is an essential fatty acids and necessary to be consumed through food. Omega-6 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, normal growth and development. Also stimulation of skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system.Most omega-6 fatty acids in the diet come from vegetable oils in the form of linoleic acid (LA). The body converts linoleic acid to GLA and then to arachidonic acid (AA). You can get GLA from several plant-based oils, including evening primrose oil (EPO) and black currant seed oil. Most of these oils also contain some linoleic acid.
Health attributes of GLA: Target healthy skin, hair and hormones
- Helps relieve symptoms of PMS, such as mild mood changes, cramps and oedema
- Maintain hormone balance via prostaglandin metabolism
- Support healthy joints
- Reduce inflammation in the lungs
- Support mental well-being
Fish oil supplements
Fish oil comes from the tissues of oily fish. The best sources are cold-water, fatty fish. When it comes to human consumption of fish oil, you can get it from fish themselves or from a fish oil supplement.Fish oil supplements contain omega 3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA. Fish do not produce the omega 3 fatty acids themselves, instead they get it through their diet of microalgae, which produce these fatty acids. In case of predatory fish, they accumulate omega-3’s by eating smaller fish that feasts on microalgae. Some of the best fish to eat to obtain fish oil from in your diet include wild-caught salmon, herring, white fish, sardines and anchovies.
Flax seed oil
Flax seed oil contains the omega 3 known as ALA, which the body needs but can not manufacture itself. Your body can however use ALA to make other omega 3 fatty acids that it need, including EPA and DHA. This is one major reason why some people prefer flax seed over fish oil supplements, another is because it is vegetarian. Another advantage of consuming flax seed for the purpose of creating DHA and EPA is that the body will never create more DHA and EPA than its need. Unfortunately the process of converting ALA into other fatty acids is not that efficient in every individual.
Evening Primrose oil
Evening Primrose oil is a favourite fatty acid supplement among women. It delivers high levels of gamma linolenic acid, which is an essential fatty acid that provides support throughout a women’s monthly cycle.
Previously we have discussed that omega 3 and 6 are essential and should be consumed through food while omega 9 is produced by the body itself.
Omega 3 and 6 should be consumed in an appropriate balance as they compete and work together to promote health. Omega 3 tend to reduce inflammation where omega 6 tend to promote inflammation. A healthy diet should consist of 2-4 times more omega 6 than 3. But the typical diet is more likely to look like 20 times more omega 6 than 3 is consumed.
The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults eat fish at least twice weekly. Fatty fish such as catfish, halibut, salmon, striped sea bass, and albacore tuna are particularly recommended. Plant-based sources of ALA such as tofu, walnuts, and canola oil are also recommended. The World Health Organization recommends a daily EPA and DHA intake of 0.3-0.5 grams and a daily ALA intake of 0.8-1.1 grams in order to be effective lowering blood fat levels (triglycerides) or to help manage symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
To treat aggression, 1.5-1.8 grams of fish oil containing DHA plus EPA or fish oil containing 1.5 grams of DHA and 0.2 grams of EPA has been taken by mouth for 2-3 months.
To treat anxiety, three grams of omega-3 fatty acids have been taken by mouth daily in the form of five capsules containing 450 milligrams of EPA, 100 milligrams of DHA, and 50 milligrams of other triglyceride omega-3 fatty acids, for three months.
To improve athletic performance, eight capsules (each containing one gram of fish oil) has been taken by mouth daily for eight weeks. Fish oil capsules containing 3.2 grams of EPA plus 2.2 grams of DHA have been taken by mouth daily for three weeks.
To treat weight loss in people with illness, 30 milliliters of fish oil has been taken by mouth daily, providing 4.9 grams of EPA and 3.2 grams of DHA for four weeks. A dose of 2-2.2 grams of EPA plus 0.96-1 gram of DHA have been taken by mouth daily for 3-7 weeks. A dose of 2-16 grams of fish oil has been taken by mouth daily for three months
To improve brain function, 0.25-0.68 grams of DHA plus 0.323-1.48 grams of EPA has been taken by mouth daily for 3-6 weeks.
To treat high blood pressure, 2-4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids has been used daily for up to one year
To treat symptoms of menopause, 500 milligrams of E-EPA omega-3 fatty acid have been taken by mouth three times daily for eight weeks.
Please note that this is the results from independent studies and could vary in individuals.