Have you got questions about fish oils and omega 3? Over the years, we have been asked about a number of things, so we've put this blog together with some of the most frequently asked questions. Your questions not here? Contact us and we'll get an answer to you.
Q) Which Ones, Who For, How Much, How Long?
There are only two truly essential Fatty Acids, these are:
1) Linoleic acid - omega 6
(Corn oil, Sunflower oil, nuts, cereals, avocado, rapeseed, palm oil hidden oils in crisps for example)
2) Alpha linolenic acid – omega 3
(Fish oil, Flaxseed oil)
Theoretically all other fatty acids essential for health can be synthesised in the body.
Our bodies are able to convert ALA to EPA and DHA, however this process is very inefficient. You would need to take 20-40g of flaxseed oil /day to oil to deliver just 1g EPA/DHA. This is a huge amount of Flaxseed oil, to produce a relatively small amount of EPA/DHA.
Also most health benefits associated with increased intake of EPA/DHA not ALA, which makes things even more difficult, hence the need to supplement with EPA/DHA so there is no need for conversion.
1) Energy source
2) Major component of all cell membranes (numerous derivative functions and effects)
3) Precursors for eicosanoid production (eicosanoids are extremely important in how the body deals with inflammation)
Omega 3 is known as nature’s anti-inflammatory, generally it is easy to remember the following when thinking about your diet or supplements.
Omega 6 are generally pro-inflammatory
Omega 3 are generally anti-inflammatory
Q) What are the benefits of omega-3?
Foetal, infant, neural system and brain development.
Cognitive function improvement (children & adults).
Reduction in risk and progression of CVD (cardio vascular disease).
Modulation of inflammatory response and chronic inflammatory diseases.
Potential improvement in mental disorders.
The importance of Fatty Acids is evident even before birth, so this is not just something which gains in importance as we develop and go through our lives. As a developing foetus fatty acids are crucial in laying down the foundations for future development. The accumulation of Fatty Acids in Infant Brain are so important.
60% by weight of brain at birth is lipid
18% of total fatty acids (11% brain weight) is DHA
12% of total fatty acids (8% brain weight) is AA
Brain cell division, brain growth and fatty acid deposition occurs substantially in third trimester of pregnancy (400 - 500% growth)
From birth to 3 months of age, DHA and AA accumulation continues at same level. This is time of maximum neural development with synaptic development, myelination and cell growth (but not division) in brain stem and spinal cord.
DHA continues to accumulate in brain and neural tissue up to 2 years of age, and then at a much slower rate into adulthood. (Martinez 1999 Carlson 2001)
- In pregnancy, DHA and AA must be obtained from maternal bloodflow. The placenta preferentially selects AA and DHA
- If DHA is deficient, AA and then docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) is laid down
- It is possible to replace DHA or AA by dietary supplementation in deficient individuals while brain is developing.
- As adults the benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids become more and more evident and relevant depending on the way you lead your life.
Q) What Are The Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on the Inflammatory Response ?
It has recently been recognised that omega 3 fatty acids affect the inflammatory response by activity at four different levels – omega 3 fatty acids are unique within fats and any other nutrients in producing these effects.
Q) Are Omega 3’s important in any other areas?
Omega 3 fatty acids are also extremely important in Cardiovascular health. This is an area where these supplements are possibly better known. Clinical evidence supports the role of omega-3 in following aspects of CVD risk
Q) What is the recommended daily intake of Omega-3?
1991* - Minimum level of ALA necessary to prevent deficiency 0.56g
Recommended level of EPA/DHA 0.1g
1994** - Recommended level of EPA/DHA 0.2g
2004*** - Recommended level of EPA/DHA 0.45g
*Report of Health Committee on Medical Aspects of Nutrition Policy (COMA)
** COMA Update
Q) How much omega-3 is in the typical British diet ?
Total Omega-3 in British diet:
Men 2.3g Women 1.7g
(Henderson et al 2003)
EPA + DHA (Estimate)
Oily fish eaters (27%) - 244mg
White fish eaters - 113mg
Non-fish eaters - 46mg
(Givens & Gibbs 2006)
Q) So where does our Omega 3 come from? Omega-3 rich oils —Sources and Types
Flaxseed oil (50-60%)
Soybean oil (7-8%)
Rape oil (9.6%)
α- linolenic acid (ALA)
Oily fish 1g/100g fish
White fish 1g/Kg fish
Q) Important Question – how much EPA/DHA do we need??
Everyday maintenance - 500-1000mg/day
Prevention - 1000-1500mg/day
Therapy - 2500-5000mg/day
The Total Amount of EPA/DHA Is More Important Than The Ratio
Most fish we eat is higher in DHA than EPA, whereas most fish oil is higher in EPA than DHA.
Most research is concluding that presence of both EPA and DHA is more beneficial than a heavy predominance of one over the other.
The combined level of EPA/DHA is more important than the ratio.
Fish Oil supplements vary enormously in potency so look at the EPA/DHA level – even from an economic point of view!!
Q) What are the advantages of Omega 3 fish oil supplements
Fish oil supplements are less contaminated.
Fish oil supplements offer opportunity for adequate daily dose of omega-3! Functional foods generally don’t!
Unless you are eating a large portion oily fish 3 times per week, you are not getting the minimum recommended level of EPA/DHA.
Everyone needs to take fish oil!!
Some people need more!!
No one needs to take more than 4 teaspoons per day!!*
One of the key and important factors in your choice of which fish oil to choose to buy is very often how ‘natural’ the oil is and what kind of quality it is? These questions, are both very sensible questions to ask.
Our PRP fish oil is the ‘Triglyceride oil’ which means the EPA/DHA is standardised in a certain way which is thought to be more ‘natural’. Also, instead of using alcohol in this process, we use enzymes which are much closer to nature.
Check out the full PRP Omega 3 range