Health Benefits and Convertibility of EPA/DHA

fish-oil

Contrary to popular belief, fats are an essential part of a healthy and balanced diet. Our bodies require a balanced level of Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) like Omega-3 and Omega-6 to function at an optimum level.  These fatty acids are essential because our bodies cannot synthesis them; therefore, we must acquire them from the food we eat and/or supplementation. Fatty fish such as salmon, trout, herring and sardines are rich in fish oil which consist mostly of Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. The health benefits of EPA and DHA include a healthy cardiovascular system, cognitive functions, nervous system and mental health.

Know Your Fats

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Although many types of Omega-3 fatty acids exist, three forms are most beneficial for human health: ALA, EPA, and DHA.

Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA) is an Omega-3 fatty acid found predominantly in vegetables, nuts, and seeds, particularly in flax and chia seeds. Our bodies require ALA to adequately break down carbohydrates and convert them into energy needed for organ function. The ALA found in fatty acids can also act as an antioxidant and protects our cells from oxidative damage. This Omega-3 fatty acid is considered essential fatty acids because they cannot be synthesized by humans.

Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) are long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids predominantly found in seafood. EPA is particularly helpful in promoting healthy blood flow and reducing inflammation. While the DHA is useful in supporting a healthy brain and eye tissues. EPA and DHA are non-essential fatty acids due to human body ability to convert them from Alpha-linolenic Acids (ALA). However, they are also being considered “conditionally essential” due to human’ low ability to make that conversion. Furthermore, our body needs a large amount of these fatty acids to function at optimal health.

Convertibility of EPA/DHA from ALA

The human body has an innate ability to convert ALA from plant sources into both EPA and DHA. However, this conversion process is inefficient and not enough to provide an adequate amount to sustain optimum physical health. In 2008 study shows our ability to make EPA and DHA conversion is relatively low. Only 5% of ALA is converted to EPA, and <0.5% of ALA is converted to DHA (1). For this reason, living exclusively on plant Omega-3 may not give us enough EPA and DHA for daily requirement.

Human low ability to synthesize EPA and DHA from ALA is a result of our genetic and ethnic background. A study in 2012 (2) shows ethnic White Europeans and Asians have a low capacity to convert ALA into EPA and DHA compared to Ethnic Africans. Scientists have speculated, ethnicities with lower capacities to convert came as a result of the cellular adaptation of millennia long-living near the coastline where seafood was abundantly available. Due to the EPA/DHA high availability from a seafood diet, the genetic ability for conversion gradually diminished. Conversely, the genetic conversion remains high in ethnic Africans due to millennia long-living away from the coastline.

Some Key Benefits of EPA and DHA:

The following are some of the health benefits of EPA and DHA:

Support a healthy nervous system and eye health

The brain is approximately 60% fat by dry weight and is especially rich in DHA fatty acid (2). Consuming foods high in DHA is crucial for brain, eye, nervous system, and cognitive function in old age (3, 4).

Support mental health

EPA and DHA are essential components of mental health. A study found that low DHA levels in pregnancy increase the risk of postpartum depression (5). Another study found that adolescents with bipolar disorder were found to have a notable deficiency in both EPA and DHA, increasing the onset of mania (6). Consuming Omega-3 supplements were found to significantly reduce mania and depression in bipolar disorder patients (7). Further, a pilot study indicates high doses of the fatty acids resulted in improved behaviour in children diagnosed with ADHD (8).

Support fetal/infant development

Studies suggest that infants with higher levels of DHA showed improved growth in behavioural functions while reducing the likelihood of a learning impairment (9).

Prevention of asthma and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Consuming two or more servings of fish weekly reduces respiratory inflammation. It lowers the risk for RA development by as much as 43% (10, 11), thanks to Omega-3’s natural anti-inflammatory properties.

Reduces triglycerides

Consuming fish at least twice a week supports healthy heart function by lowering triglycerides and regulating blood-clotting properties (12).

Regardless of what diet you prefer, consuming adequate amounts of essential fatty acids is critical to maintaining good health. While our bodies can synthesize small levels of EPA and DHA from plant sources, these levels often do not measure up to our bodies needs. Consuming a diet of fish twice a week or taking a daily fish oil supplement can provide your body with the fatty acids needed.

Although, the health benefits of fish oil are numerous, the larger the fish, the more mercury they contain. Consuming fish along with yogurt or other probiotic-rich fermented food may protect you from the harmful effect of mercury in fish.

If you need help overcoming any health challenges, please contact us for an obligation-free discussion or book an appointment directly with us.

 

fish-oil

Many types of Omega-3 fatty acids exist, however, three forms are most beneficial for human health: ALA, EPA, and DHA.

Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA) is an Omega-3 fatty acid found predominantly in vegetables, nuts, and seeds, particularly in flax and chia seeds. This Omega-3 fatty acid is considered essential fatty acids because they cannot be synthesized by humans.

Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) are long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids predominantly found in seafood. EPA and DHA are non-essential fatty acids due to human body ability to convert them from Alpha-linolenic Acids (ALA). However, they are also being considered “conditionally essential” due to human’ low ability to make that conversion.

Convertibility of EPA/DHA from ALA

The human body has an innate ability to convert ALA from plant sources into both EPA and DHA. However, this conversion process is inefficient and not enough to provide an adequate amount to sustain optimum physical health. In 2008 study shows our ability to make EPA and DHA conversion is relatively low. Only 5% of ALA is converted to EPA, and <0.5% of ALA is converted to DHA. For this reason, living exclusively on plant Omega-3 may not give us enough EPA and DHA for daily requirement.

Human low ability to synthesize EPA and DHA from ALA is a result of our genetic and ethnic background. A study in 2012 shows ethnic White Europeans and Asians have a low capacity to convert ALA into EPA and DHA compared to Ethnic Africans. Scientists have speculated, ethnicities with lower capacities to convert came as a result of the cellular adaptation of millennia long-living near the coastline where seafood was abundantly available. Due to the EPA/DHA high availability from a seafood diet, the genetic ability for conversion gradually diminished. Conversely, the genetic conversion remains high in ethnic Africans due to millennia long-living away from the coastline.

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Fish Recipe Ideas:

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Cantonese Steamed Fish

Originating from the southern province of China, Cantonese steamed fish offers a sauce that pairs well with most any fish native to your region.

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Balinese Yellow Fish Stew

While Bali, Indonesia may be well known for its tourism and gorgeous holiday destination, this fish stew is one of its hidden gems.