What makes Omega 3 essential?

Flo Hodgson Nutrition Intern at Wild Nutrition

Omega 3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid and ‘essential’ means that it cannot be synthesised in the body and has to come from our diet which means we need to keep it topped up. Fatty acids are the building blocks our body uses to make hormones but also plays a role in energy production, healthy cholesterol, the immune system, regulating inflammation, mood and more. This kind of fat is good for us and is different to say, excess fat we might want to get rid of on our tummies!

 

Research shows us that omega 3 also helps to protect us from conditions such as asthma or heart disease, plays a role in autoimmune and degenerative conditions, supports brain and mood issues and more. ‘Good’ oils keep our skin, eyes, joints, muscle and other tissue lubricated. Omega 3 oils also support female menstrual health by assisting with the production of the right type of prostaglandins (immune compounds).

 

Is it necessary to include fish in your diet if you are supplementing fish oils?

 

Supplements should not replace food; food should always come first. However, for those who find it hard to eat fish, fish oil supplements may help to bridge the gap. They may also be used as a ‘therapeutic’ top up if a particular health situation requires it. If you do not take fish oils for religious or ethical reasons, you could try an algae DHA product or flax/chia seed oil.

 

If you are taking fish oil supplements it is still important to eat 2-3 portions of fish a week since the whole fish supplies protein, vitamins and minerals. Where possible you could try to find suppliers of wild fish.

 

There are some restrictions with fish consumption in pregnancy (check with your midwife) and that means using a clean fish oil supplement (heavy metal and contaminant free) to help support your levels. However, do check that the particular fish oil you are using is safe in pregnancy as some forms of fish oil like cod liver oil, may not be advised during pregnancy. Our Pure Strength Omega 3 is not a cod liver oil and may be safely used all the way through pregnancy and into breastfeeding.

 

Omega-3 includes two components: EPA and DHA. DHA is a structural component of the human brain and is why omega 3 plays such a big role in brain function, especially in young infants and children. This is also why it is so important that pregnant women maintain healthy omega 3 levels. Omega 3 fatty acids are also necessary for supporting the preconception stages, most especially for men. DHA forms a considerable part of the head of the sperm and therefore influences sperm quality and mobility. In addition to this, the fatty acids provide 'vehicles' to support the absorption and circulation of fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamin A, D, E and K, all of which become especially important during preconception, pregnancy and the early stages of childhood.

 

Omega-3 containing foods include

 

  • Oily Fish (salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel)
  • Nuts and Seeds (chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, hemp seeds)
  • Vegetables (broccoli, spinach, cauliflower)
  • Eggs from chickens who consume omega 3 rich foods (i.e. grass and other plants).
  • Animals (e.g. cows) reared on a grass-fed diet

 

So, why might our omega 3 levels become low?

 

Problems in maintaining good levels of omega 3 in the body arise from the modern day diet or individual preferences not to consume fish. Some modern agricultural practises affect the amount of omega 3 available in commercially sold eggs, fish and meat. For example, hens reared indoors fed on grains will have a lower omega 3 content than hens reared outside that are fed on omega 3 containing plants as well as grains.

 

It has also been found that most vegetable oils sold today which are high in polyunsaturated fats contain very little omega 3 and large amounts of omega 6 fatty acids. This is considered a problem as recent research has discovered that an excess of omega 6, which can be synthesised in the body, creates an imbalance that can interfere with production of beneficial prostaglandins needed for a healthy immune system and female health.

 

When might we need more omega 3?

 

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • In times of stress
  • Excess saturated fat intake
  • During the preconception stages for both men and women
  • During the early stages of childhood development
  • In pregnancy, but especially in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy and during breastfeeding
  • In fitness or sports to keep joints running smoothly

 

Certain vitamins and minerals play a role in the way fats are used or are ‘available’ for use in the body so a healthy diet and topping up on minerals like zinc or B vitamins is essential to support the use of essential fats by the body. This stresses that good nutrition should be wide-ranging and comprehensive as there is much interplay in the body between nutrients, fats, enzymes and more.

 

All of this highlights the need for supplementing omega 3 in addition to eating an omega 3-rich diet. If you have any questions about Wild Nutrition’s Pure Strength Omega 3 supplement, please contact our technical team who will be happy to advise you.

 

For more on essential fats and the roles they play see 'Not all fats are created equal' and '5 Ways Omega 3 can positively influence your child’s development'

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