Omega-3 fats

Of all the different kinds of fat produced in the human body, there are only 2 kinds we cannot make ourselves: the omega-6 fat linoleic acid, and the omega-3 fat linolenic acid. Both these fats are polyunsaturated. Our bodies can make monounsaturated fats (such as those predominating in olive and canola oil) and saturated fats (those predominating in coconut oil, butter and animal fat) out of other types of fat, so we have no dietary requirement for such fats. But we have to consume linoleic and linolenic acid – that’s why these fats are called essential fatty acids.

The problem is, most people eat far too much omega-6 fat, mostly from vegetable oils used in processed foods, and insufficient omega-3 fat. While the ratio between these 2 types of fat was probably around 4:1 (i.e. 4 times as much omega-6 as omega-3 fat) in our evolutionary diet, that ratio is now around 10:1,  or even 20:1 in people eating a diet primarily composed of processed foods. This imbalanced ratio contributes to a host of physical and mental health problems including heart disease, inflammatory joint disease, depression and ADD/ADHD.

Plant sources of omega-3 fats include green leafy vegetables, walnuts, flaxseed/linseed and chia. The type of omega-3 found in plant food is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a short chain omega-3. The major omega-3 fats used in the human body are EPA and DHA, which are both long-chain omega-3 fats. Only about 5-10% of ALA is converted into EPA, while the conversion rate to DHA is unknown, but probably very low – although pregnant women are able to convert more ALA into DHA than non-pregnant women and males.

Our nearest relatives, the great apes, consume incredibly large amounts of leafy greens, and these wild greens are far higher in omega-3 fats than the cultivated greens we consume. Obviously, this was the diet of our ancient ancestors too. If you’re taking in such large amounts of greens, the fact that you convert a relatively small proportion of the ALA into DHA and EPA becomes relatively insignificant. But without access to these wild greens, we do run the risk of producing insufficient amounts of long-chain omega-3 fats.

Most people know that cold-water fish such as salmon and tuna contain long-chain omega-3 fats, but virtually all fish and seafood are contaminated with either mercury, PCBs and/or dioxins, all of which are highly toxic in different ways.

The safest way of securing adequate amounts of long-chain omega-3 fats is to use an algal-sourced EPA/DHA supplement. After all, fish don’t produce omega-3 fats: they consume algae, or fish that in turn have consumed algae. Algae produce omega-3 fats via photosynthesis. I use, recommend and sell V-Pure. V-pure is organically grown in controlled conditions, which means it is completely free from the toxins and contaminants in fish oil. Algal-derived EPA/DHA supplements are safe, effective and environmentally sustainable, while fish oil production is contributing to the catastrophic collapse of fish stocks throughout the world’s oceans.

For more info and great recipes, visit my website.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Omega-3 fats…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

    Reply

  2. Posted by Lisa on July 11, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Thanks Robyn – I’m learning so much. Maybe you could turn your blog into a book one day 🙂

    Reply

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