Did you know omega 3 supplements provide nutrients that were, at one time, present in the food chain, in substantial amounts? Modern farming practices, such as the shift to feeding corn to cattle and poultry, has made them harder to find.
Plant foods, such as flaxseed and canola oils, contain only one type of the long-chained polyunsaturated fat. It is called alpha-linolenic acid or ALA and is found in olives, walnuts and some other sources. Animal fat may contain ALA, depending on what they eat.
Some kinds of fish and seafood contain unique polyunsaturated fats called Docosahexaenoic acid or DHA and Eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA. Regular intake of DHA and EPA has been associated with a variety of health benefits. The same cannot be said of ALA.
Knowing that strict vegans and vegetarians are opposed to the consumption of fish, supplement manufacturers searched for an alternative. They found that some types of marine algae contain DHA, but not EPA.
Some kinds of seaweed or kelp, in particular wakame, contain EPA, but the concentration is very low. So, it would require the consumption large amounts of kelp in order to get a significant amount of EPA through dietary intake, alone.
So, the first thing that you need to be sure of when shopping for omega 3 supplements is the source. If the source is fish oil, then you are getting DHA and EPA. The content varies.
To insure that you are getting enough to experience the health benefits, you will need to read the label. If the milligrams of DHA and EPA are not listed, simply choose another brand. There are dozens to choose from.
If the source is flaxseed, you are only getting ALA. Remember that no health benefits have been associated with increased intake of ALA. If you are a vegan, you can look for omega 3 supplements derived from marine algae, in order to get DHA. Again, it is necessary to read the label. Some marine algae supplements provide different nutrients; still considered good for your health, but not because of the DHA content.
Other important factors to consider when evaluating the brands on the market have to do with purity and freshness. The manufacturers can and should have the oils tested for peroxide and other free radicals that form with the oils become oxidized or spoiled. Once encapsulated, no further spoilage occurs. Consumption of rancid oils will negate any of the health benefits associated with omega 3 supplements.
The benefits noted in scientific studies include a reduced risk of heart disease, a reduced risk of certain kinds of cancer, an improvement in depressive disorders and anxiety issues, better joint function, stronger immune systems and better eye health. There are even some benefits to the reproductive system. Some fertility clinics are recommending supplementation as the first line of treatment for men with low sperm counts or motility.
So, there are plenty of good reasons to take omega 3 supplements every day. We just need to be picky about the ones that we buy.