* Why do we need Omega-3 August 07 2012
Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential nutrient required by every cell of our body
Long chain polyunsaturated Omega-3 acids EPA and DHA play both structural and functional roles in our bodies*.
Even though EPA and DHA can be created by the human bodies from ALA (18:3n-3), it only happens in very limited quantities (less than 5%)1, 2. Apart from that limited conversion, human bodies cannot synthesize EPA and DHA. This places EPA and DHA in one category with vitamins and minerals: they are all essential nutrients that cannot be made by our bodies and have to be consumed from either diet or dietary supplements.
Structurally, EPA and DHA are a component of every cell in every tissue and every organ of the body, including brain, eyes, blood cells, skin, heart etc. They are a structural part of the cell membranes and give them the necessary fluidity and flexibility3.
If the body does not have access to sufficient Omega-3 (EPA and DHA), it will start incorporating more Omega-6 into the cell membranes, then saturated fats and even trans fats, thus creating inferior unhealthy membrane structure.
- DHA produces an epigenetic signal that turns on the BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) gene, and the latter activates neurogenesis and neuroplasticity in the brain4 . Simply said, DHA helps keeping the brain young
- EPA is a precursor of a certain type of prostaglandins, hormone-like compounds, that serve as catalysts for a large number of processes within cells and tissues. For example, prostaglandins are involved in the regulation of the immune function, blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, inflammation, and cell growth5
- Human beings evolved on a diet with the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids of ~1 whereas in Western diets the ratio is over 15-to-1 6. In addition to carrying out its own functions, Omega-3 derived prostaglandins exert anti-inflammatory effect by balancing and counteracting Omega-6 derived prostaglandins7
- EPA and DHA are necessary for the gene expression. They interact directly with DNA as well as with proteins that affect the processing of transcription factors8
- There has also been extensive research of the multiple health benefits of the Omega-3 against particular types of disease; and so far FDA has approved a statement that “Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”
The interest in fish oil and Omega- 3 rose sharply after the 1976 study of a health, what appeared back then, phenomenon in Greenland Eskimos. Dr. Dyeberg, a medical doctor from Denmark, observed that despite consuming a very high fat diet (420 – 1650 mg/day of cholesterol intake), the Greenland Eskimos had a very low rate of heart disease. Subsequent laboratory tests revealed that the blood plasma of the Eskimos contained a high level of polyunsaturated Omega-3 fatty acids.
This discovery led to extensive research and thousand clinical trials on the multiple health benefits of the EPA and DHA, and over 1,000 research papers published around the world. And so far FDA has approved a statement that “Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product on the web-site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.
1. Gerster H. Can adults adequately convert alpha-linolenic acid (18:3n-3) to eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3)? International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research. 1998;68(3):159-73
2. Brenna JT, Salem N Jr, Sinclair AJ, et al. Alpha-linoleic acid supplementation and conversion to n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in humans. Prostaglandins, Leukotriens and Essential Fatty Acids. 2009;80:85-91.
3. Zimmermann MB. Burgerstein's Handbook of Nutrition: Micronutrients in the Prevention and Therapy of Disease. New York: Thieme. 2001; 89
5. DeCaterina, R Basta, G. N-3 Fatty acids and the inflammatory response – biological background. European Heart Journal Supplements. 2001 3; Suppl D: D42–D49
6. Simopoulos AP. The importance of the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio in cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. Experimental Biology and Medicine (Maywood). 2008; 233: 674–688
7. Wildman R.E.C (ed.). Handbook of Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods, 2nd Edition. CRC Press. 2006; 233-234