What Are Omega 3’s Anyway?
Omega 3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential for health. They are required for proper functioning of the membranes within our body tissues including our heart and brain, but also play a critical role in normal function of our nervous system, kidneys, liver, and eyes. These fatty acids are critical for all of our body systems.
Omega 3 also plays a crucial role in hematologic function (our blood), in the contraction of muscle tissue and fibres’, the dilation/constriction of blood vessels and in the inflammatory process.
Many types of Omega 3 exist; however, the most important ones for health are DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid). These are highly unsaturated fatty acids, long chain Omega’s.
DHA is the most complex of the Omega fatty acids, and is composed of 22 carbon molecules and 6 double bond molecules.
The question becomes why is that important? Most individuals are not Chemists, nor do they care to be. The answer is found when you find that EPA only has 20 carbon Molecules and 5 double bonds.
Most individuals require more DHA than EPA; in this case if your body requires more DHA than EPA it is very difficult for your body to convert EPA to DHA because essentially it must manufacture 2 additional carbon bonds and an extra double bond.
Your body is a phenomenal instrument and is capable of doing this; however, studies have found that the conversion is minimal. Conversely though, your body can easily convert EPA to DHA because all that is required is a drop in molecules.
Fish and algae are the only source of Omega 3’s with DHA and EPA’s. The Omega 3’s found in plant and nut oil is called ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid).
Again your body is capable of converting ALA to DHA however ALA has even less Carbon molecules than EPA. So theoretically your body would first have to convert ALA to EPA and Then to DHA. The conversion rate of this would be even lower.
So why is DHA more important than EPA from a health standpoint? DHA is the most abundant essential fatty acid found in the retina and brain, comprising 60% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the retina and 40% in the grey matter of the brain.
Elevated levels of DHA have been able to slow the loss of brain cells and tissues as we age. *Moreover, studies have shown that those individuals with high blood levels of DHA are more that 40% less likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s. Those individuals already suffering from dementia showed a 65% improvement in dementia symptoms, when DHA levels where increased, and their symptoms also improved.(Studies from the University Of Iowa,USA)
It becomes increasingly clear the importance of this incredible fatty acid. Its benefits are numerous, and far reaching to all systems within the body.