Fish oils – Which ones?

Eating oily fish 1-2 X week is good for you (salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines). Yes, eat the skin, that’s where lots of oil is. You can also take fish oil or other supplements. Here’s why. Fish oil supplies three essential fatty acids (EFAs) known as Omega 3′s (acronyms: ALA, DHA, EPA). Essential means we don’t make them in our bodies, but have to get them from our diets. Also, the omega three part comes from chemistry nomenclature describing chemical structures located at the tail end (omega, vs alpha) of the fatty acid. You can also get EFA’s from animal products such as grass fed meats, dairy and eggs. Best vegetarian sources include walnuts, algae and flaxseed. Vegans should probably take a supplement, because its hard to get enough from these sources unless you’re really focusing on the levels. (Same with vegan iron and vitamin B12).

1) DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is beneficial for skin and eye structure and health, as well as brain development. DHA is the predominant structural fatty acid in the central nervous system and retina and is crucial for fetal brain development. It is recommended that the pregnant and nursing woman should take at least 2.6g of omega-3 fatty acids and 100–300 mg of DHA daily.  There’s also lots of documentation of this fish oil having benefits for ongoing cardiovascular health and reduced heart disease.

2) EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) has anti-inflammatory properties, and has been implicated in reducing depression andhot flashes.

3) ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) has to be converted to one of the above EFAs to be used in the body and we do it inefficiently (less than 10%). Better to either eat the whole food, or buy DHA/EPA supplements.

So bottom line is: eat more fish, and if you are going to supplement, aim for less ALA and more EPA and DHA.