Among all the suggestions for vitamins, minerals, and supplements, you’ll see “Omega 3” mentioned over and over.
So, what is Omega 3 and why is it so important?
Omega 3 is a “fatty acid” widely distributed in nature, and playing an important role in the human diet and in human physiology. It’s of three types, and they are all important in the diet.
“Short-chain” Omega 3 is called “ALA”
“Long-chain” Omega 3 is of two types. “DHA” and “APA”.
According to Wikipedia: Although Omega−3 fatty acids have been known as essential to normal growth and health since the 1930s, awareness of their health benefits has dramatically increased since the 1980s. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated that “supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease”. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency states that: “DHA supports the normal physical development of the brain, eyes and nerves.”
An article published by the Mayo Clinic says:
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fatty acid that may reduce inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation in the body can damage your blood vessels and lead to heart disease and strokes. Omega-3 fatty acids may benefit heart health by:
• Decreasing triglycerides
• Lowering blood pressure slightly
• Reducing blood clotting
• Decreasing your risk of strokes and heart failure risk
• Reducing irregular heartbeats
So, two conclusions arise from this, for older people:
• You must take enough of all three types of Omega 3 to avoid any deficiency. If you’re vegan, then your only realistic option for DHA and APA is to take an algae oil supplement.
• Once you’re sure you’re not deficient, there’s mixed evidence about the benefits of taking more, whether through eating fish or taking supplements. But so long as you don’t take excessive amounts, there’s no evidence so far of a downside, and yet there is the possibility of getting some benefit.
Because I’d long ago read articles about the possible benefits of Omega 3, and the risk of deficiency, I’ve been taking fish oil capsules for years.
Then when I went vegan, I switched to using flaxseed oil, and made one BIG mistake. At that time, I hadn’t known there were different types of Omega 3. It was about six months into my vegan time that I read more, and realized that although flaxseed provides the ALA form, I was potentially becoming deficient in the other two forms.
In theory, the body can manufacture DHA and APA from ALA, but it’s not a perfect mechanism, and becomes less perfect as we get older. So, for someone in their 60’s or later, you just can’t rely on this. There are trace amounts of DHA and APA in some fruits and vegetables, but again, not enough for what the body needs.
So, for someone not eating fish, it’s important to take DHA and APA as a supplement.
I didn’t want to go back to fish oil, because of the risk of pesticides and other toxins, and it was then I discovered algae oil. The algae are cultivated in a totally sterile environment, well clear of any toxins, and the oil is extracted from them. In case you wonder about whether Omega 3 from algae is good enough, just bear in mind that that’s exactly where fish ultimately get their own Omega 3 from.
So now I take algae oil capsules every morning for my DHA and APA (and just to be sure, I still take flaxseed oil for my ALA).
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