The days that all fats scared us witless are well and truly behind us. Here is the skinny about why Omega 3 must be at the top of your supplement shopping list. The FYI, concentrating on benefits of DHA versus EPA. And where to find the best kind.
Can your body make its own Omega 3?
Mammals can make many of the nutrients they need. Omega 3 is one of the examples of nutrients that you cannot synthesise in your body. These nutrients are called essential. Firstly because they are critical to your optimal performance and health. Secondly because mammals cannot make them. So these nutrients must come from your diet.
It is worth noting that your body can convert one kind of fatty acids into others. For example your body can turn ALA into DHA or EPA. But the body does not do this well.
Why is it important to your health?
An easy way to understand DHA versus EPA is by thinking about them in this way:
DHA is most important above the neck: the structure and function of the brain, eyes and nervous system depend on DHA.
EPA plays a larger role in what happens below the neck. The heart, arteries, connective tissue and skin need enough of this important nutrient.
When should I supplement Omega 3?
Considering that Omega 3 is an essential nutrient, the simple answer is… “Always”. But there are times when it is of even greater importance to achieve and maintain wellness.
- During the third trimester of pregnancy. As Dr Werner Kerschbaumer puts it: “At this time the brain and nervous system are rapidly expanding, increasing in mass and size”.
- During breastfeeding. Your baby receives concentrated nutrients and through your breast milk during this critical time.
- When your are stressed or in times when school and work place greater demands on your concentration, like during exams and when deadlines loom large.
- To stave off ageing and mental decline. DHA is used up remarkably fast. Since it plays such a vital protective role for the eyes, brain and nervous system, regular supplementation can be so useful when we want to maintain our faculties into old age.
What is a good source?
The most common source of Omega 3s in the human diet are fish. But, it is not that well known that fish is actually not the true source. Just like us, fish cannot make Omega 3 in their own bodies. Fish absorb Omega 3 that they obtain from their diet and then accumulate in their liver. Their diet often includes smaller fish. These small fish eat tiny crustaceans like krill, which eats zoo plankton and phyto plankton. We also refer to phyto plankton as algae. Here, at the base of the food web, is where Omega 3 is formed – by ALGAE.
Here is the important thing to know: Fish and krill accumulate water borne heavy metals and plastic or petroleum derived toxins just like they accumulate fatty acids. While many products claim to be purified, we believe going to the very first source is best. Schizochytrium algae used in our Alvega-3 capsules is a coastal marine alga renowned not to absorb toxins. That’s why it is our first choice.
I keep hearing about ocean pollution and overfishing. Are fish and krill oils sustainable?
Over and above concerns about bio-accumulation as discussed above, it is well known that fish stocks have declined dramatically. Krill is heavily extracted from the polar regions too. As a keystone species, krill should feed wales, penguins and a host of other species.
Research has shown that extracting krill leaves the species that rely on these little crustaceans desperately lacking their primary food source. Krill, in turn need the algae that grows under the polar icecaps as their food source. We know that the ice caps are shrinking, which places pressure on those populations of algae and thus also further creates pressure on krill populations.
That is why we agree with others who regard both krill and fish as highly unsustainable and irresponsible sources for Omega 3.
Omega 3 is a fat. Just like butter, your Omega 3 supplement can go rancid easily. For optimal health benefits invest in an Omega 3 supplement, like Alvega-3, which includes an anti-oxidant complex to keep it fresh. Many cheap fish oil products are not stable and may end up doing even more harm than good.
At the end of the day supplements are an investment in the future you. Just like any other investment it is worth giving careful consideration. Not just focused on the price, but making sure you’re are getting great value for money.