The omega-3 effect varies depending on fatty acid. Moment? Depending on fatty acid? Are there several?
Yes, 11 acids are known. For you, however, three are particularly important and also explored:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
- Eicosapenaetic Acid (EPA)
Alpha-linolenic acid is contained in high-quality vegetable fats (e.g. linseed oil, walnut oil or chia oil). The other two fatty acids are the well-known ” fishoils“, which are now also available as vegan algae oils.
Our organism needs different levels of the three omega-3 fatty acids and it is not enough to take just one to you. Look at that and in detail.
Omega-3 and the effect: Is ALA alone enough or do you also need DHA and EPA?
The vegetable omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid metabolizes our body for energy production. ALA is also converted in small parts to the other two fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapenaetic acid.
This does not mean, however, that ALA alone is enough. Unfortunately, the body can convert little ALA into DHA and EPA: between 0.5 (DHA) and 5 percent (EPA), according to a 2009 study. Moreover, this conversion rate is highly dependent on the intake of other, healthy, unsaturated fatty acids. The intake of omega-6 fatty acids plays a major role.
Only if the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is between 4:1 and 6:1, the conversion works so “well”. In a 2016 review, researchers concluded that ALA is not a suitable substitute for DHA.
So what does that mean? We need not only plant ALA,but also DHA and EPA,which are absorbed as fish oils or algae oils.
What is the omega-3 effect in your body? What is changing?
In your body, the three fatty acids change a lot. Much of this has been proven, but there are currently only indications for other things. These have yet to be sufficiently proven in scientific studies.
ALA lifts the often dreaded triglycerides,while EPA and DHA lower the fats again – again it becomes clear that we need both. There is also a 2007 study that attributes a positive effect on bone stability to all three fatty acids.
According to several studies from 2006 to 2008 in Japan and other countries, the content of DHA in the blood indirectly correlates with the risk of sudden cardiac death.
What does that mean? People who suffered sudden cardiac death also had a lower DHA content in their blood. People with healthy hearts had a higher DHA value. In countries where high-fat fish with a lot of DHA is often on the menu, in this case Japan as a prime example, the risk of cardiac death is significantly lower than in Germany, for example, where sea fish rarely comes to the plate. The omega-3effect is therefore positive here.
Studies generally point to a number of positive effects of DHA and EPA for cardiovascular disease:
- DHA and EPA prevent cardiac arrhythmias.
- DHA and EPA stabilize vascular tracts that could trigger a heart attack.
- DHA and EPA slow down a natural change in coronary vessels.
- DHA and EPA have a preventive effect against coronary heart disease.
- DHA and EPA promote blood circulation.
- DHA and EPA inhibit thrombosis (platelet aggregation).
Research is also underway to determine whether docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is not also beneficial in neurology and psychiatry. For example, it is assumed that ischaemic strokes (due to low blood flow) are less likely to occur due to higher DHA levels.
There is also evidence that EPA and DHA may have a positive effect on cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s. For the time being, however, there are only promising initial results and no large-scale study.
For depression and bipolar disorder, EPA and DHA could have a positive effect. Especially at EPA or EPA in combination with DHA, there is evidence that they may have antidepressant effects. However, there is still a great deal of research to be done here and no certain statements can be made here.
Other diseases such as schizophrenia, borderline personalities and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders could also benefit positively from omega-3 fatty acids, according to initial data.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) only confirms that EPA and DHA contribute to a normal function of the heart. This is already done with a daily intake of 250 mg.
EFSA rejects some attributed effects. The following notes can therefore be formulated at the moment:
– Omega-3 has no detectable positive effect on cholesterol levels in human blood.
– There is no detectable positive effect on the immune system. Omega-3 is therefore also not generally detectable anti-inflammatory or immunomodulating.
– Omega-3 does not have a demonstrable positive effect on blood sugar.
– Omega-3 does not give the skin any detectable protection against UV damage.
What remains of the healthy omega-3?
These omega-3 effects are scientifically proven according to the Consumer Centre
The Consumer Centre points out that only the following effects have been sufficiently demonstrated scientifically:
- EPA, DHA and also ALA receive normal cholesteroland triglyceride levels and normal blood pressure. This requires 2 to 3 g daily.
- EPA, DHA and also ALA are necessary for normal brain function, vision and heart function. Only 250 mg daily are required here.
In addition, there are three special characteristics for unborn babies, infants and children:
- DHA helps normal vision development in infants up to 12 months of age. This requires 100 mg daily.
- DHA via the mother helps the normal development of the brain and eyes in the fetus and in the infant when the mother is breastfeeding. Here, an additional 200 mg daily are required about the mother’s own needs.
- The ALA needs a special relationship again. If at least 0.2% of the total energy is absorbed daily via ALA and at least 1% of the total energy is added to the omega-6 fatty acid called linoleic acid, both are necessary for healthy growth and development in children.
All other effects are currently not scientifically proven, according to the Consumer Centre.