Why and what Omega-3 supplements?

 
 
 

In 1963, more than 50 years ago, some scientists of Harvard demonstrated for the first time that humans require the dietary intake of certain polyunsaturated fatty acids that our body is unable to synthesize (for this reason, these fatty acids are named essentials). Nowadays, we know that the essential fatty acids of the omega-6 series and the omega-3 series (the most important of which are linolenic acid [LNA], from plant sources, and eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and docosahexaenoic acid [DHA], mainly from marine origin) are essential for development and growth, and they can play a key role in the prevention and management of many diseases.

If they are essential, how humans have been able to survive until now without supplements? The problem is that Western dietary patterns have changed over the last 100-150 years, as consequence of the socioeconomic changes (the industrial revolution), entailing to a change in fatty acid consumption, with an increase in the consumption of omega-6 and a reduction in the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids: foods that were naturally rich in omega-3 (meat, fish, poultry, etc.) have lost part of their omega-3 content and increased their omega-6 content as a result of the change in nutritional composition of the animal feed employed (obviously, the products derived from this foods also having large amounts of omega-6 and small of omega-3), industrial food processing and reduction in fish consumption.

The adequate (balanced) dietary intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is very important. An alternative for increasing intake of omega-3 would be consuming foodstuffs enriched with omega-3, but the current regulation of these products does not distinguish betweenomega-3 of plant origin (LNA) and omega-3 of fish origin (EPA and DHA) and the conversion rate of LNA to EPA and DHA is very low. The consumption of fish omega-3 is able to guarantee adequate amounts of EPA and DHA. So, fish oil supplements are a clear option. However, many omega-3 supplements are not enough purified and contain contaminants; furthermore, their EPA and DHA concentrations is low (only 30%).

It is important to choose certified and validated products, with purity and quality guarantees, free of contaminants and ensuring a consistent supply of EPA and DHA.

 

Reference:

Gómez Candela C, Bermejo López LM, Loria Kohen V. Importance of a balanced omega 6/omega 3 ratio for the maintenance of health. Nutritional recommendations. Nutr. Hosp. 2011;26(2):323-329.

 
 

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