A diet deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), results in altered cell membranes. Without a healthy membrane, cells lose their ability to hold water, vital nutrients, and electrolytes. Cells also lose their ability to communicate with other cells and be controlled by regulating hormones. Such types of cell membrane dysfunction is a critical factor in the development of virtually all chronic diseases, especially cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. Luckily, long-chain Omega-3s have tremendous protective effects against all these diseases.
EPA and DHA can be transformed into regulatory compounds known as prostaglandins, which carry out many important tasks. They regulate inflammation, pain, and swelling; help maintain blood pressure; and regulate heart, digestive, and kidney function. Prostaglandins also participate in the response to allergies, help control nerve signal transmission, and help regulate hormone production. Through their effects on prostaglandins and related compounds, long chain Omega-3s can mediate many physiological processes, making them useful in virtually every disease state.
DHA is especially important to brain function, and makes up 30–40% of the long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in the cerebral cortex. DHA is responsible for cell membrane fluidity, receptor strength, and control of signalling molecules in the brain. DHA also affects dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine regulation.
Essential Fatty Acids are fatty acids that humans must ingest because the body requires them for good health, but cannot synthesize them. There are many benefits of essential fatty acids. Among them are:
There are basically two sources of essential fatty acids: plant and fish.
There are many different sources of plant oils: Flax, Hemp and now algae.
Flax oil has a rich source of alpha linolenic acid containing about 50-57% of this important Omega-3 fatty acid. Hemp oil has an almost perfect ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Hemp also has Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) which has been shown to help with skin and hair health, hormone balance and inflammation. Evening Primrose Oil and Borage Oil both contain abundant amounts of GLA, which is needed to form important prostaglandins that maintain and regulate vital body functions.
A newer source of DHA now available is microalgae schizochytrium oil. Unlike land plants, certain aquatic species have the ability to synthesize the Omega-3 DHA. The DHA content in most fish originates from the consumption of algae; therefore, the DHA present in these products is identical to that found in fish.
Echium plantagineum, a common plant native to many parts of the world including western and southern Europe, represents an exciting alternative source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Unlike flax seed oil, echium oil contains the Omega-3.
Stearidonic acid (SDA) readily converts to EPA. Studies have demonstrated that SDA from echium converts to EPA at a rate of up to 30% (compared to 3.28% for flax). A further advantage of echium is that it is also a natural source of the Omega-6 Gamma-Linolenic Acid.
Unlike most Omega-6 fatty acids, GLA supports an anti-inflammatory effect in the body and promotes healthy skin
Fish Oils, from sources such as salmon, and mackerel, have higher amounts of EPA and DHA compared to plant-based fatty acids. While the body can convert alpha-linolenic acid (found in flax) into EPA and DHA, the conversion can be difficult and inefficient, which leads to EPA and DHA deficiencies. Krill oil is the most potent source of Omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA. It also contains the antioxidant astaxanthin, which has an antioxidant value 300 times stronger than vitamins A and E.
Cod Liver Oil is a fat soluble vitamin containing Vitamin A and D. It has been shown to promote healing by stimulating the immune system. Not all Cod Liver Oil have Omega-3. Brands such as Nordic Naturals and Carlson, have the Omega-3, whereas others will just have the Vitamin A and D.