Fatty acids are the main building blocks of fat compounds similar to how amino acids are the main building blocks of protein. Just like there are nine essential amino acids, there are two essential fatty acids that we must obtain through our diet: omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. In Western society, however, most people consume way too many omega 6s which are found in foods such as margarine, vegetable oils, meats and so on. So much so that the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio is often 14-25:1. Omega 3s are found in oily fish e.g. sardines, salmon, herring, mackerel, chia seeds, hemp seeds, ground flaxseeds and algal products. Adequate consumption of omega 3s ensures adequate cognition, fetal development, cardiovascular health and nerve functioning. Omega 6s promote inflammation whereas omegas 3s reduce inflammation.
Once consumed, humans convert omega 3s into longer chain fatty compounds called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), of which offer an array of health benefits. EPA is especially good for inflammation whilst DHA shines in cardiovascular health. Therefore, it is important to have them both!
Omega 3 fatty acid deficiencies can present as fatigue, poor cognition, poor skin integrity and dry skin, cardiovascular issues, poor circulation and mental health issues. It is always important to seek the advice of a qualified health professional if you suspect you are suffering from any of these as these signs can overlap with other nutritional deficiencies and conditions.
Omega 3 dosing should be dependent on the amount of EPA and DHA within the product and related to the condition as opposed to the total amount of fish oil. Many fish oil capsules contain an average amount of approximately 180mg EPA and 120mg DHA.
There are some important contraindications to be aware of with fish oil, thus always consult your healthcare professional before consuming.
Tune in to my upcoming post in which I break down the differences between krill oil and fish oil.