What you need to know about omega-3 fatty acids
You can find out what omega-3 fatty acids are and what effect they have on our health in our blog.
The most important component of our dietary fats are the fatty acids . A distinction is made here between saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. The classification refers to the chemical bond between the individual carbon atoms. This can either be in the form of one (monounsaturated) or several (polyunsaturated) double bonds.
Fatty acids not only serve the body as an important energy supplier , but are u. a. also part of the biomembrane of the body cells and precursor of hormone-like substances, the so-called eicosanoids (e.g. prostaglandins and leukotrienes). These messenger substances are formed by every body cell and play an important role, for example, in inflammatory reactions, blood pressure, blood clotting and the accumulation of blood platelets (thrombocyte aggregation) as well as keeping the blood vessels healthy. They are made from the polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
What positive effect do omega-3 fatty acids have on our health?
Eicosanoids, which are formed from omega-6 fatty acids (e.g. linoleic acid or arachidonic acid), however, tend to have undesirable properties (including inflammation-promoting) properties. In contrast, the eicosanoids from omega-3 fatty acids are said to have a positive (including anti-inflammatory) effect. We can influence which of these eicosanoids are formed through our diet. Because both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have to be supplied through food, as the body cannot produce them itself. This dietary approach is used e.g. B. in the therapy of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatism, chronic intestinal inflammation or neurodermatitis.
The positive effects of omega-3 fatty acids on health became known in the 1970s. At that time, scientists examined the diets and disease rates of the Greenland Eskimos. The spectacular result: Despite high fat consumption, there are fewer cardiovascular diseases . The reason for this is said to be the high omega-3 content of their diet. This is also confirmed by subsequent studies: Omega-3 fatty acids seem to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
However, fatty acids taken in with food are not only used to form eicosanoids, but are also incorporated into our cell membranes. The more polyunsaturated fatty acids that are incorporated, the more elastic the biomembrane becomes. This can also lead to improved cell function and signal transmission. The concentration of omega-3 fatty acids is therefore particularly high in the nerve cells of the brain and in the retina of the eye. Whether omega-3 fatty acids can also improve cognitive performance is currently still being discussed. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids are also assigned a role in the prevention of depression.
How do I supply my body with sufficient omega-3 fatty acids?
Many people associate omega-3 fatty acids with fish or fish oil capsules. But the origin of the healthy fatty acids lies in the plant world: grasses, seeds and algae. Our omega 3 vegan capsules are purely vegetable and contain algae oil.
The most important omega-3 fatty acid is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which can be found in rapeseed and linseed oil, chia seeds or walnuts. It is one of the essential nutrients, which means that our body does not have to produce it itself and take it in with food. In the liver, the alpha-linolenic acid can be converted into the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
However, this conversion is limited. In order to be adequately supplied with long-chain fatty acids, the direct intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids via dietary supplements is therefore recommended.
Experts therefore recommend an amount of 0.2-0.6% of the daily energy per day Take in omega-3 fatty acids. At the same time, a omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 5: 1 should be aimed for . Since omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids compete for the same enzyme (lipoxygenase) in the formation of eicosanoids, a high intake of omega-6 fatty acids makes it difficult to produce sufficient long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids such as the essential linoleic acid are mainly found in vegetable oils (e.g. sunflower oil, wheat germ oil), the long-chain arachidonic acid in animal products.
Fish and fish oil capsules: Frequently high levels of dioxins, PCBs and heavy metals
In order to increase the intake of omega-3 fatty acids, the consumption of fish is often recommended. The omega-3 content of fish fluctuates considerably – depending on the type of fish, whether aqua culture or wild-caught. Only the fatty cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel or tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The problem: Overfishing of the oceans, the prophylactic use of antibiotics in farms and the pollution of many fish with environmental toxins.
Fish and fish oil capsules during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for the brain, eyesight and heart function. Therefore, it is especially important for pregnant women and children to have adequate care. It has been scientifically proven that the intake of DHA contributes to normal vision development in babies up to the age of 12 months and to normal development of the brain in children during pregnancy and lactation. Therefore, pregnant and breastfeeding women often use fish and fish oil capsules. What many do not know, however, is that fish can be significantly contaminated with environmental toxins.
Exposure to mercury in particular is problematic, as unborn and newborn babies are particularly susceptible to the toxic effects of the heavy metal. Even a single serving of fish per week of pregnancy can cause higher levels of mercury in the newborn. Pregnant women should therefore ensure that they come into contact with as little mercury as possible.
Also PCBs (polychlorobiphenyls) and dioxins are common in fish. A study of over twelve thousand foods in different countries showed that fish and fish oil have the highest PCB concentrations. This is partly because fish are usually particularly long-lived and dioxins and PCBs accumulate in the body fat of the fish due to their good fat solubility.