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What You Really Need to Know About Omega-3 Fatty Acids

August 30, 2014

Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the most popular topics in health and nutrition today, and for good reason – this family of essential fatty acids provides a host of health benefits. Three fatty acids make up the omega-3 family: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Each of these omega-3 fatty acids is considered essential, meaning that they cannot be synthesized by the human body. However, not all omega-3 fatty acids are created equal. DHA is the most important of the omega-3 fatty acids, and is primarily responsible for the benefits commonly associated with omega-3 foods and supplements.

A common misconception is that our body’s need for DHA can be met by consuming flaxseed, nuts and other ALA sources, which our bodies would then convert to DHA. Yet studies have shown that ALA supplements are unable to raise blood DHA levels1. Humans do have limited ability to convert dietary ALA to EPA and crucial DHA, however the efficiency of the conversion is very low (less than 1 percent)2, and dietary intake of EPA and especially DHA is necessary to maintain sufficient amounts in the body.

DHA is essential for proper human development and health. Unfortunately, many diets are deficient in this vital nutrient. Alltech’s Algae Opportunity is working to mitigate this nutrient deficiency with naturally DHA-enriched functional foods by simply returning DHA-rich microalgae back into the diets of animals that produce meat, milk and eggs. By incorporating algae in the diets of livestock, both the animal and the consumer receive the expansive health benefits of DHA, improving health from feed to food.

  1. Brenna JT, Salem N, Sinclair AJ, Cunnane SC. α-Linolenic acid supplementation and conversion to n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in humans. PLEFA. 2009 Feb-Mar; 80(2-3):85-91.
  2. Simopoulos AP. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Bio Pharm. 2002; 56(8):365-79.

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