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Not All Omega-3s Provide the Same Benefits

A recent summary of omega-3 research found that the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic (ALA) may not be as beneficial as other omega-3 fatty acids.

The study found that ALA does not convert to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) efficiently enough to provide any physiological benefit. It was published in the March 2009 issue of Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids.

The research was conducted by the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL), a group that includes the top fatty acid researchers in the world as well as some of the world's biggest omega-3 suppliers.

According to ISSFAL, both ALA and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) converted to DHA at negligible levels.

ALA, EPA and DHA are all considered omega-3 fatty acids. Their health benefits have been widely studied, particularly with respect to heart and brain health. Studies have shown EPA and DHA to be more beneficial but they are also harder to get since they come primarily from fish - which most people don't get enough of in their diets.

ALAs are from plant sources and therefore easier to obtain. However, your body needs to convert these omega-3s into EPA and DHA before they can be used. This new research shows that most of the potency is lost during the conversion process.

According to Tom Brenna, chair of the ISSFAL committee that released the statement earlier this month, the brain produces minimal amounts of DHA naturally and is therefore very dependent on outside sources.

Eating more oily fish and DHA/EPA fortified foods is one way to increase your omega-3 levels but it is often hard to consume enough through diet alone to see any real health benefits.

For most people, the easiest way to get more of these essential fatty acids is by taking a high quality fish oil supplement that's high in EPA and DHA and certified for purity.

A simple supplement can provide substantial health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with improved heart health and cognitive function, decreased cancer risk, lower risk of depression, and better eye health.
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