Plant based ALA Omega 3 fats are not an efficient source of EFAs

By now it’s highly likely that you’ve heard of the health benefits of Omega 3 essential fatty acids. But did you know that there are in fact a number of different Omega 3 fatty acids, and that some of them are better for you than others?

There’s 3 commonly recognized Omega 3 fats, though there are others. These are ALA (alpha linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).

It is generally considered that DHA is the most important of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids. It is DHA which makes up a large proportion of your brain and the research shows that most of us are deficient in our DHA intake.

EPA is also important to our health, and a good Omega 3 supplement should contain both DHA and EPA. There is some debate what are the best proportions of DHA compared to EPA, but there is little debate over the fact that both should be present in good Omega 3 supplements.ala omega 3

So what about ALA Omega 3 supplements? What are these and are they worth taking?

ALA is the plant-based Omega 3 fat, whereas DHA and EPA are both found in fish. There is no ALA found in fish. Omega 3 supplements containing ALA are generally taken by vegetarians who recognize the health benefits of increasing the amount of Omega 3 fats in their diet but who don’t wish to eat any fish or anything sourced from fish such as fish oil supplements.

Flax seed oil is the most well-known of the vegetarian sources of ALA Omega 3 fats.

However gradually the research is showing that ALA Omega 3 fats are not a particularly important part of the essential fatty acid equation. The reason is that ALA is only useful to your body when your body is able to convert it into DHA and EPA. In fact ALA is what is known as a “precursor” to DHA and EPA. And unfortunately it converts very poorly.

Studies suggest that our bodies are able to convert well under 20 percent of any ALA that we consume into it’s healthier cousins, some studies suggest way less than that. The rate at which your body is able to convert ALA Omega 3 fats is dependent on your state of health, those amongst us who are healthier can convert it better, those who are less healthy can convert it less easily.

The elderly will convert ALA into DHA and EPA quite poorly. Read the rest of this entry

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