In recent decades, omega-3 has been linked to an immense range of health benefits. In particular, the powers of omega-3 have been shown to play an essential role in the prevention and treatment of heart health. But how does omega-3 help keep our heart healthy and what are the best sources to get it from?
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential polyunsaturated fatty acids. Omega-3 is seen as essential as the human body can’t produce it so we must source it from food or supplements. There are several different types of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, but the long-chain omega-3s are the most important for therapeutic benefits, particularly docodahexenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). The richest dietary sources of long-chain omega-3 include oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines but also other seafood and shellfish.
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is a plant-sourced short-chain omega-3 that’s found in linseeds (also known as flaxseed), canola, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, tofu and walnuts. ALA must be converted by the body to DHA and EPA and requires a much larger intake to achieve the same therapeutic benefit as DHA and EPA.
So what effect does omega-3 have on your heart health? Omega-3 oils have been shown to favourably affect lipid profiles, platelet aggregation and arrhythmia and may reduce plaque rupture and clot formation. DHA decreases vascular adhesion and EPA increases nitric oxide production. Thus, omega-3 is proven to be protective by altering the biochemistry of the blood in positive ways, decreasing triglycerides and blood stickiness.
For heart disease prevention, the Heart Foundation recommends at least 500mg DHA and EPA per day for children and adults. To achieve this, the National Heart Foundation of Australia recommends that we should aim to eat two to three serves of 150g of oily fish or seafood a week, to reduce the risk of heart disease. Many of us do not eat the recommended amount of oily fish each week, and so this where supplements begin to play a role.
While a supplement is one alternative if you just can’t manage to get enough omega-3 from food, making the choice can be an overwhelming task with the vast number of supplements on the market. The most important information to look at when finding a supplement is the total amount of DHA and EPA. Some supplements containing omega-3 are VitaScience Omega 3-6-9, Ethical Nutrients Hi-Strength Liquid Fish Oil and Bioglan Odourless Fish Oil 1500mg.
More recently, Krill Oil (Euphausia superba) has joined the world of omega-3 supplements. Krill is a rich source of omega-3 and has a similar overall fatty acid composition as fish oil, however some claim that the phospholipid fats in krill make it more easily absorbed and therefore more powerful than fish oil. Some Krill Oil supplements available on the market are Totally Natural King Krill Oil and Bioglan Red Krill Oil.