Different types of fat have different consequences to your body and total health. While fat and its many different forms have been getting more attention and conversation, today we’re focusing on Omega-3 fatty acids.
According to the American Heart Association, Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of or who have cardiovascular disease.
Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation.
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3s are a polyunsaturated fat found in food and play a crucial role in brain function. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, fats like the kind found in Omega-3 fatty acids, are “highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function.”
Optimal levels of omega fatty acids have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, and many other inflammatory diseases.
Higher levels of omega-3 — especially EPA and DHA, which we’ll talk about next — are reported to correlate with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and depression.
Where Can Omega-3s Be Found?
You can increase Omega-3s by increasing the amount in your diet, as the body can’t make these on their own, it must come from food–hence why are they called “essential” fatty acids.
There are three types of Omega-3s, all found in food sources. They are divided into two categories, as detailed by the Harvard School of Public Health:
1) Animal-based Omega-3s
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are the two animal-based fatty acids. They come mainly from fish, so they are sometimes called marine omega-3s. You can primarily find EPA and DHA in:
- Cold Water, fatty fish: Salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and tuna
- Fish oil: Salmon, Menhaden, Sardine, Cod Liver Oil, and Herring
- Seafood: Pacific oysters, mussels, squid, clams
2) Plant-based Omega-3s
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the plant-based essential fatty acid, and the most common omega-3 fatty acid in most Western diets. You can primarily find ALA in:
- Seeds: Flax seeds and flaxseed oil, chia, sesame, pumpkin
- Nuts: Walnuts, butternuts, hickory nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and macadamia nuts
- Vegetables: Spinach, winter squash, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale and broccoli
The animal-based omega-3s, DHA and EPA, are the ones believed to be the most beneficial when it comes to impacting overall health. As detailed by the University of Maryland Medical Center, “The health effects of omega-3 fatty acids come mostly from EPA and DHA. ALA from flax and other vegetarian sources needs to be converted in the body to EPA and DHA. However, many people’s bodies do not make these conversions very effectively. This remains an ongoing debate in the nutrition community; fish and sea vegetable sources of EPA and DHA versus vegetarian sources of ALA.”
While the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have no specific recommended amount of daily Omega-3 fatty acids, they have recommended eating foods rich in these healthy fats while staying within your total fat allowance.
What Should My Omega-3 Levels Be?
Optimal health ranges for Omega-3 Fatty Acids (DHA and EPA) are:
- Index <2.2: High
- Index 2.2-3.2: Moderate
- Index >3.2: Low
Ranges above or below change your risk. Here is what that risk range/data would look like in your WellnessFX profile:
To read more about dietary fat, we recommend these blog posts:
- Why Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat (and What Kinds to Eat)
- Should We Eat Low Fat?
- Low Carb vs. Low Fat for Weight Loss – Which is Better?
How WellnessFX Can Help
Consult your doctor before embarking on a diet high in EPA or DHA.
Test your Omega levels to see where you stand, first. WellnessFX offers this as an a la carte option, so you can either test the panel as a stand alone or as a panel already included in our Premium panel. This test measures your fatty acid levels, identifies the percentage of EPA, DHA. It also measures arachidonic acid (Omega-6), and calculates the ratio of arachidonic acid to omega-3s, which can help determine the level of inflammation in the body.
There are a few different biomarkers to monitor if you are interested in the impact of dietary fat. For starters, you’ll want to test your LDL, HDL, Total Cholesterol, and Triglycerides – these markers are found in our e-Check up, Baseline, Performance or Premium packages.
Your blood cells regenerate every 120 days, so we recommend re-assessment every 4-6 months, after instituting new habits.
The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.