What are the benefits of essential fatty acids?
- Cardiovascular benefits
- Known to reduce inflammation
- May have a positive effect on strength and muscle gains
- May have a positive effect on fat loss.
Fish oils, or omega 3, is one of my most common recommendations as a supplement to my clients, especially here in South Africa. Your body cannot produce omega 3 in the same way it can omegas 6 and 9. By the way I am not a fan of combo omegas 3-6-9, I find them unnecessary for most people. We get enough in our day to day nutrition of omega 6 and 9, we can produce it ourselves, and these combinations tend to lower the omega 3 concentration, which is what we’re after.
In South Africa, and most other nations, our overall nutrition lacks sufficient omega 3. Salmon here is too expensive, and it's not realistic to suggest it becoming a staple in one’s diet - not at R 300-400 per kg. Tinned Tuna is devoid of any omega 3, our common white fish - such as hake - are very low as well, and let’s be fair, you are pretty hardcore if you eat Tinned pilchards on the regular. Trout would be the reserve of people that fish frequently for trout, but not something you can pop to the general store and buy.
So, we end up supplementing it.
On the bottle you have Omega 3 1000mg, which doesn’t mean much. What does mean something is the DHA and EPA content of each capsule.
DHA is short for Docosahexaenoic acid.
EPA is short for Eicosapentaenoic acid.
That’s a mouthful so we will stick to DHA and EPA. When looking at the reverse of the bottle, all omega 3 fish oil supplements will supply this breakdown. The most common is the 120mg/180mg split totaling a 300mg per serving DHA/EPA content. This is important as this dictates your dose.
NOW Foods Ultra Omega 3 has 750mg combined EPA/DHA per serving, hence its higher price than the norm - bear this in mind when deciding dose as this option may prove to be cheaper in the long run.
Dosing of omega 3 fish oils is anywhere from 300mg per day for general health up to 1800mg per day combined EPA/DHA for certain ailments, this is also determined by the amount of oily fish you have in your nutrition. My clients in Mozambique and America have oily fish on the regular, such as salmon and fresh tuna, which means the amount needing supplementation decreases, unless of course you are taking the fish oils in high enough doses to be beneficial to certain conditions like hypertension, or high cholesterol.
Why am I not looking at flaxseed oil?
Well I do, but only for vegans and certain vegetarians. Although some sources exist such as algae, they are harder to find. Flaxseed oil as a source of omega 3 is simply subpar, it has other benefits in its raw form which I am not going to touch on now, but as an omega 3 supplement, not so much.
The omega 3 from flaxseed is ALA or Alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA) which then needs to be converted to EPA and DHA before being synthesized by the body, here is the main issue:
In males, ALA is converted to EPA at an approximate rate of only 8% and to DHA from 0-4%.
In females, ALA is converted to EPA at an approximate rate of only 21% and to DHA from 9%.
This is hardly ideal, but presents an honest solution to vegans and vegetarians, when fish oils are obviously off the table as an option, but careful consideration is needed on the dose relative to fish oils themselves.