Omega 3 fatty acids

Omega 3 Fettsäuren

Even though daily fat intake in Germany has fallen over the last few years, it is still high. Many people eat too much food that contains a lot of hidden fats, such as cheese, sausage or sweets. On the other hand, they save on the healthy fatty acids that are found in vegetable oil, fish or algae, for example. Omega 3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid and is a true all-rounder. In this guide, you will find out why Omega 3 fatty acids are so healthy, in which numerous areas they can support the body and why you should also choose the vegan alternative to Omega 3.

The different fatty acids

Not all fats are the same. There are several types of fats or fatty acids that can be distinguished and have different effects on our bodies. Firstly, fatty acids can be divided into saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. While unsaturated fatty acids are healthy and important for the metabolism, it is not advisable to consume too many saturated fatty acids. Unsaturated fatty acids can be further divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. The latter also includes omega-3 fatty acids as well as omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega 3

What exactly is Omega 3?

Omega-3 fatty acids consist of long-chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids and are made up of hydrogen and oxygen atoms and a carbon chain. They are suppliers of important building blocks in the human body and an important part of our development and health. Omega 3 is essential and cannot be produced by the body itself. This means that we have to get enough of the fatty acids from our food.

What's included?

Many foods with a high omega-3 content are of animal origin. Good sources include fish such as tuna, salmon or herring. But there are also some plant-based alternatives that are rich in omega-3. Vegetable oils such as rapeseed oil, walnut oil or soybean oil are particularly suitable here. Nuts such as walnuts are also good sources of omega-3.

ALA, EPA & DHA

Omega-3 is one of the so-called polyunsaturated fatty acids. Three of them are particularly important for the human body:

• Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

• Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

• Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

ALA is mainly obtained from plants and is particularly abundant in linseed and linseed oil, walnuts and walnut oil, as well as in hemp oil and rapeseed oil. DHA and EPA are obtained primarily from fatty fish and seaweed.

ALA is essential and cannot be produced by the body itself, so it must be consumed through food. The human body can convert ALA using enzymes, first into EPA and then into DHA, although the latter process is reversible. This can create a balanced ratio of the various fatty acids in the body.

However, the proportion of ALA that is converted to EPA and DHA is relatively small at around 10 percent, so that EPA and DHA should also be partially substituted through food.

Omega-3, Omega-6 & Omega-9

Omega 3 and Omega 6 cannot be produced by the body itself, which is why they must be taken in through food. The fatty acids Omega 6 and Omega 3 compete with each other, so to speak. Both require the same enzymes. The ratio of the two fatty acids is therefore particularly important. Both fatty acids are precursors of messenger substances in the body that are responsible for regulating blood pressure or inflammatory reactions, for example. If there is too much Omega 6, the anti-inflammatory effect of Omega 3 is blocked, which is why the ratio is crucial for certain processes in the body.

An appropriate ratio of omega 3 and omega 6 should be consumed in a ratio of 2:1 to 5:1, which is also recommended by the German Nutrition Society (DGE). However, the average ratio is currently around 8:1, which is significantly higher than the recommended requirement. This is because people nowadays increasingly consume foods that contain omega-6 fatty acids. These are mainly found in meat and dairy products or fats such as sunflower oil and margarine.

Omega-9 fatty acids

Omega-9 fatty acids are monounsaturated fatty acids and can be produced by the body itself from saturated fatty acids, which is why they do not need to be taken additionally. But they are also healthy and important for the body's functions. Among other things, they regulate cholesterol levels and support the cardiovascular system. Omega 9 can also reduce the storage of omega-6 fatty acids and saturated fats in the cell membrane.

Why vegan?

Although fish is known for its high omega-3 content, there are alternative ways to consume the fatty acid in a vegan way. Microalgae are particularly suitable for this. They have a very high omega-3 content and are often the basis for food supplements. They are advantageous over fish not only because no animal had to die for them, but also because they have no measurable contamination by environmental toxins. In addition, the ratio of EPA and DHA in them is identical to that of breast milk, so they function as an ideal source of omega-3 for us humans. Another advantage of the vegan form of algae as an omega-3 source is that growing them using water cultures does not harm the environment, and in fact several tons of carbon dioxide are bound from the atmosphere for processing, which makes the algae an extremely ecologically acceptable product.

Effect

The effect of Omega-3 in the human body is very diverse and can support many processes that are vital to our survival. Among other things, they form part of the cell membranes, where they are responsible for the flexibility and permeability of the membranes so that the metabolism can be supported in the best possible way.

Many parts of the brain are also made up of fats. As mentioned previously, for example, the polyunsaturated docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the most important fatty acid in the brain.

In addition, Omega-3 can have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. They are a kind of precursor to various hormones and thus support cell division.

Omega 3 deficiency

A lack of Omega 3 can have a detrimental effect on our health and, in the case of a long-term deficiency, can even lead to various lifestyle diseases. The deficiency is often caused by an unequal ratio between Omega 3 and Omega 6. It is therefore recommended to ensure that you get enough Omega 3 through your diet or to substitute the fatty acid.

Symptoms

  • Photosensitivity, dry eyes, visual disturbances

  • Susceptibility to infection

  • Inflammations, inflammatory diseases

  • Poorer wound healing

  • Circulatory disorders

  • Cardiovascular problems

  • Muscle weakness

  • Sleep problems, depression

  • Dry and flaky skin

  • Children: Growth disorders

  • Possible secondary diseases

application areas

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for life and can support the human organism in numerous processes and functions. In addition, they can also help prevent premature diseases:

Supporting brain function

Since our brain is largely made up of fats, omega-3 fatty acids are also part of every single cell in the brain. Around 30 percent of the structural fats in the brain are made up of DHA, which is part of omega 3. It is therefore an important building block of the brain and also influences its performance and function. The highest DHA content is found in the metabolically active areas of the brain, the cerebral cortex, the synapses and the mitochondria. You should therefore ensure that your brain is adequately supplied with omega 3 so that healthy and normal brain function is possible.

Protection of the cardiovascular system

Cardiovascular diseases are one of the most common diseases and causes of death in today's society. Therefore, it is important to protect yourself against them as best as possible. In addition to exercise, a healthy diet and avoiding nicotine and alcohol, Omega-3 can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. This has been proven by several studies on the subject. With a high Omega-3 index, subjects were able to, among other things,

  • Reduction of heart rate

  • Lowering blood pressure

  • Increase in heart rate variability

  • Lowering triglycerides

be determined.

Protection against infection and inflammation

Several studies have now shown that omega-3 fatty acids have a positive effect on the immune system. Infections in the body caused by bacteria or viruses can also cause inflammation, which is fought by our immune system. One component of these processes is omega-3 fatty acids, which are contained in substances that allow inflammation to subside more quickly. The fatty acid can therefore strengthen the immune system.

Reduction of triglyceride levels in the blood

Various causes such as lipid metabolism disorders, poor diet, diabetes or thyroid diseases and alcohol can lead to increased triglyceride levels. These can then lead to a significantly increased risk of coronary heart disease and thus place a greater strain on the cardiovascular system than previously thought. Omega-3 fatty acids can lower triglyceride levels because EPA and DHA are triglyceride-synthesizing enzymes and fight against the esterification of other fatty acids. Regular substitution can lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and regulate blood flow and blood flow rate.

Vision

Vision is one of our most important senses, as we absorb around 80 percent of the information around us through our eyes. Therefore, we should pay attention to healthy vision and eye function. Omega 3 is also very useful here, as it is also a component of the retina and photoreceptor cells and ensures normal vision. Sufficient Omega 3 substitution can support and promote the function of our eyes.

pregnancy

Even during pregnancy, the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA ensure the healthy development of the child's brain and eyes. It is particularly needed in large quantities towards the end of the pregnancy for the child's development, which is why pregnant women should pay particular attention to ensuring they have an adequate intake of omega 3 so that their child can develop well.

Infants after birth

You should also ensure that babies after birth get enough Omega-3, as these are very important for early childhood development. First and foremost, they promote brain development and support vision. They also help to support babies' immune systems, which can prevent illnesses and infections.

Conclusion

It can therefore be said that fats are not exclusively bad for our bodies. On the contrary, we actually need fats to be adequately supplied. However, a distinction must be made between saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. The latter includes omega-3 fatty acids and is valuable and essential for our bodies, which is why it must be consumed through food. A distinction is made between three different omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

Omega 3 can help the body with a variety of functions:

  • Supporting brain function

  • Protection of the cardiovascular system

  • Protection against infection and inflammation

  • Support of visual function & vision

  • Reduction of triglyceride levels in the blood

Important: This guide is intended as a source of information only. Always consult your doctor if you have acute problems. Under no circumstances should you change the dosage of your medication or stop taking it yourself.

Sources

  1. Aung T, Halsey J, Kromhout D, et al. Associations of omega-3 fatty acid supplement use with cardiovascular disease risks: meta-analysis of 10 trials involving 77,917 individuals. JAMA Cardiol. 2018;3(3):225–233. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2017.5205

  2. Heydari B, Abdullah S, Pottala JS, et al.: Effect of Omega-3 Acid Ethyl Esters on Left Ventricular Remodeling After Acute Myocardial Infarction The OMEGA-REMODEL Randomized Clinical Trial. Circulation 2016; 134 (5): 378–91

  3. Burgerstein, U., Schurgast, H, Zimmermann, M: Handbook of Nutrients - Prevention and healing through balanced nutrition (2012), Trias Verlag (12th edition)

  4. European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) (2012): Scientific Opinion on the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA). EFSA Journal 10 (7): 2815.


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