So, before we dive into the specifications and composition of omega-3 supplements, some of you may wonder why do these supplements deserve our attention in the first place? The fact that we largely affect our health and the quality of life with every single nutritional choice isn’t just a phrase. Back in the ancient times, Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, left a simple formula for a healthy life that lives on: Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. Therefore, it is safe to say that nutrition plays a pivotal role in the health of an individual - and omega-3s are certainly on the top of the list of dietary requirements.
Omega-6 & Omega-3 Balance
According to a study on the effects of dietary omega-3 fatty acid consumption, for nutrition to be considered optimal, it must entail the following components: water, essential vitamins and minerals, low glycemic carbohydrates, amino-acid-enriched proteins, ample antioxidants, as well as carefully balanced healthy fats - both omega-6 and omega-3 (the so-called ω-6/ω-3 ratio). The same study states that both types of omega fatty acids are crucial to human health, considering their structural role in the composition of cell membranes, as well as their anti-inflammatory effects, lipid mediator activity, and energy production.
When it comes to the ω-6/ω-3 ratio, the perfect balance would be found somewhere around 1-4:1. Unfortunately, the modern Western diet statistics are quite worrisome, given that the ratio seems to be 10:1, and even 20:1 in some cases. What this means is that, while we’re neglecting omega-3s which are absolutely essential to our health, the problem is in excess consumption of omega-6 fatty acids.
The Importance of EPA:DHA Ratio
Excess consumption of omega-6 fatty acids may further jeopardize the conversion of omega-3 components, namely the conversion of ω-3 ALA to long-chain EPA and DHA, by 40-50%! Therefore, in order for the conversion to occur at a sufficient rate, and for adequate levels of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) to be obtained, supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids is critical, a study on great sources of EPA and DHA states. As far as optimal sources of omega-3 fatty acids are concerned, the aforementioned study prioritizes algae as the most abundant sources of EPA and DHA.
But, before we move on to the importance of EPA:DHA balance in your diet, let’s talk a little bit about their mutual roles. According to a study focused on health benefits of EPA and DHA, EPA and DHA can be defined as dietary fats with numerous health roles, including cell membrane structure, anti-inflammatory processes, cell membrane viscosity, etc. In addition, both of these fatty acids have been recognized as pivotal elements when it comes to fetal development, as well as healthy aging. Furthermore, as lipid mediators, they are also participating in numerous metabolic processes. Finally, DHA is the longest omega-3 acid chain, accounting for about 80% of the total amount of omega-3 in the human body, particularly abundant in the brain.
Even though it is more than clear that EPA and DHA represent vital components of a healthy diet, somehow they remain neglected in the modern diet. How come? Well, the answer lies in the amount of these valuable nutrients that we’re able to obtain from proper dietary sources. According to a study conducted by D.Swanson and colleagues, the body is able to convert ALA to EPA and DHA, but the amount obtained from this process is insufficient - hence the need for bioavailable omega-3 supplementation.
It is of utmost importance to optimize the ratio of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids when it comes to various aspects of human health. For instance, the EPA:DHA ratio has been shown to play a significant role in inflammatory pathways. Namely, the presence of both of these omega-3 acids is necessary when it comes to anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 acids. Furthermore, an optimal ratio of these two acids has also been shown to positively influence cell health, combatting the development of neurodegenerative conditions. In relation to cell health and preservation, the significance of raising EPA:DHA ratios has also been linked to cognitive health, as well as neurological development.
Why are Vegan Omega-3 Supplements the Preferable Alternative?