Among all the suggestions for vitamins, minerals, and supplements, you’ll see “Omega 3” mentioned over and over.
So, what is Omega 3 and why is it so important?
Omega 3 is a “fatty acid” widely distributed in nature, and playing an important role in the human diet and in human physiology. It’s of three types, and they are all important in the diet.
“Short-chain” Omega 3 is called “ALA”
“Long-chain” Omega 3 is of two types. “DHA” and “APA”.
According to Wikipedia: Although Omega−3 fatty acids have been known as essential to normal growth and health since the 1930s, awareness of their health benefits has dramatically increased since the 1980s. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated that “supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease”. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency states that: “DHA supports the normal physical development of the brain, eyes and nerves.”
An article published by the Mayo Clinic says:
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fatty acid that may reduce inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation in the body can damage your blood vessels and lead to heart disease and strokes. Omega-3 fatty acids may benefit heart health by:
• Decreasing triglycerides
• Lowering blood pressure slightly
• Reducing blood clotting
• Decreasing your risk of strokes and heart failure risk
• Reducing irregular heartbeats
Note: In theory, the body can manufacture EPA and DHA from ALA, but it’s not a perfect mechanism, and becomes less perfect as we get older. There are trace amounts of EPA and DHA in some fruits and vegetables, but not normally enough for what the body needs.
Thus, for older people:
- You must take enough of all three types of Omega-3 to avoid any deficiency. Typically, you’ll get all the short-chain ALA and long-chain EPA and DHA that you need, if you eat a healthy, balanced diet of vegetable and animal sources, especially including fish.
- If you’re vegan, you’ll probably get all the ALA you want (especially if you have flaxseed, or flaxseed oil, in your diet), but your only realistic option for EPA and DHA is an algae oil supplement.