Why do we need omega-3?
Omega-3 plays a vital role in the formation of cell membranes and eicosanoids. Eicosanoids are signalling molecules that play various roles in your heart and lung health, the endocrine and the immune system. Omega-3 fatty acids are needed for normal blood pressure, triglyceride levels, brain function, heart health and vision. There is emerging evidence that omega-3s may play a role in the prevention of heart disease, Alzheimer and prostate cancer (1, 2, 3).
Omega-3 fats are essential fatty acids, meaning the body can’t make them on its own. For this reason, it’s important that you get enough Omega-3 from your diet.
A study conducted in the U.S. and Germany compared the perception of participants on their dietary intake of omega-3 as opposed to the actual intake of omega-3. The results showed that while more than half of adults had a fair knowledge of the health benefits of omega-3, the vast majority of adults had suboptimal levels of omega 3s when tested (4).
There aren’t any obvious symptoms for an omega-3 deficiency, and the only way to diagnose a deficiency is through a blood test. Some signs of low omega-3 intake may include irritated/dry skin, mood swings or increased levels of anxiety, depression or stress and/or difficulties with sleeping.
There are three types of omega-3 fats:
- ALA (alpha linoleic acid): This form can be found in plant-based foods like nuts and seeds (especially flaxseed).
- DHA (Docosahexanoic acid): This form can mainly be found in algae and seafood.
- EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid): This form can be found in seafood, mainly oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines.
Food sources of omega-3.
- Fatty fish (Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines, Trout, Herring, Tuna)
- Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
- Chia seeds
- Walnuts and walnut oil
- Soybeans and soy products like tofu and tempeh
- Canola oil
- Fortified products (certain brands of eggs, juice, yoghurt, milk)
What is the Nutrient Reference Value of omega-3?
There hasn’t been an NRV established in the UK for omega 3. However, for the UK, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommends the consumption of two servings of fish per week, one serving of which should be from oily fish. Meeting these intake recommendations would contribute approximately 450 mg of EPA/DHA, which is considered as the adequate intake level (5).
For who do we recommend a supplement?
Seafood and especially oily fish are good sources of omega-3, and people who include this twice a week in their diet will have an adequate intake. If you can’t eat fish or don’t like fish, an omega-3 supplement is something to consider.
A study conducted in New Zealand investigated whether DHA supplementation can improve cognitive performance in healthy young adults whose habitual diets are low in DHA. The study showed that a DHA supplement improved memory and reaction time of memory (6). Another meta-analysis has shown that DHA, alone or combined with EPA, contributes to improved memory function in older adults with mild memory complaints (7).
FFF Supplement Dose.
- Omega-3 from Fish oil
330 mg EPA + 220 mg DHA
- Vegan DHA from Algae oil
200 mg DHA
Why choose supplements from Fresh Fitness Food?
We have opted to offer two different sources of omega-3, namely fish oil and algae oil.
The composition of the fish oil supplement is more similar to the omega-3 found in seafood. Research has shown that the consumption of equal amounts of EPA and DHA from oily fish on a weekly basis or from fish oil supplements on a daily basis is equally beneficial for cardiovascular health (8).
This supplement contains a combination of EPA and DHA. As ALA can be found in a wide range of plant-based foods, sufficient levels will be obtained through diet. A supplement with an EPA/DHA ratio between 2:1 and 1:2 is best (9).
For those who can’t take a fish-derived supplement, they can opt to supplement with a vegan algae oil. Research has shown that combining food sources of ALA with supplemental DHA increases the omega-3 status in the serum. DHA can be retro-converted to EPA meaning that DHA supplementation may represent an alternative to fish oil to increase blood and tissue concentrations of EPA and DHA (9).
When it comes to our health, the food we put in our bodies can have a significant impact in many ways. It affects our mood, energy levels, stress, physical activity and everything in between. The right nutrition can help us to feel better, every day. At Fresh Fitness Food we believe in a food-first approach as food provides you with so much more than just nutrients. Many of us should be able to get most nutrients from a healthy and balanced diet, however, there are some caveats and exceptions where food supplements can assist to fill up the gaps.
If you are unsure or have any questions about food supplements, you can book in for a call with one of our all-knowing nutritionists here (link: https://meetings.hubspot.com/fffcall/supplements-consultation).
- Ruxton, C. and Derbyshire, E., 2009. Latest evidence on omega‐3 fatty acids and health. Nutrition & Food Science, 39(4), pp.423-438.
- Swanson, D., Block, R. and Mousa, S., 2012. Omega-3 Fatty Acids EPA and DHA: Health Benefits Throughout Life. Advances in Nutrition, 3(1), pp.1-7.
- Terry, P., Lichtenstein, P., Feychting, M., Ahlbom, A. and Wolk, A., 2001. Fatty fish consumption and risk of prostate cancer. The Lancet, 357(9270), pp.1764-1766.
- Thuppal, S., von Schacky, C., Harris, W., Sherif, K., Denby, N., Steinbaum, S., Haycock, B. and Bailey, R., 2017. Discrepancy between Knowledge and Perceptions of Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake Compared with the Omega-3 Index. Nutrients, 9(9), p.930.
- Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN)/Committee on Toxicity (COT) (2004). Advice on Fish Consumption: Benefits and Risks, The Stationary Office, London
- Stonehouse, W., Conlon, C., Podd, J., Hill, S., Minihane, A., Haskell, C. and Kennedy, D., 2013. DHA supplementation improved both memory and reaction time in healthy young adults: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 97(5), pp.1134-1143.
- Yurko-Mauro, K., Alexander, D. and Van Elswyk, M., 2015. Docosahexaenoic Acid and Adult Memory: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLOS ONE, 10(3), p.e0120391.
- Harris, W., Pottala, J., Sands, S. and Jones, P., 2007. Comparison of the effects of fish and fish-oil capsules on the n–3 fatty acid content of blood cells and plasma phospholipids. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 86(6), pp.1621-1625.
- Harris, W., 2004. Fish oil supplementation: evidence for health benefits. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 71(3), pp.208-210.
Conquer, J. and Holub, B., 1996. Supplementation with an Algae Source of Docosahexaenoic Acid Increases (n-3) Fatty Acid Status and Alters Selected Risk Factors for Heart Disease in Vegetarian Subjects. The Journal of Nutrition, 126(12), pp.3032-3039.