Only 2% of the population have adequate levels of Omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acids are an important component of our diets, but we seldom reach the recommended intake.
Because of the limited content of Omega-3 in our diet, supplementation is more than a real option.
In this post, we'll review all the different omega-3 supplements to tell you which one is the best.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 are a series of polyunsaturated fatty acids with an unsaturation on its last third carbon, also called carbon ω-3.
Of all omega-3 fatty acids, we are most interested on EPA and DHA.
These can be synthesized from ALA in our body, but the conversion is so low (study), that EPA and DHA are considered essential.
We need them through diet, or if not possible, supplementation.
The Ratio Omega 6/3
Omega-6 is abundant in foods, while Omega-3 is not. That leads to disbalanced ratios omega 6/3 of 20:1 or higher (study)
Health Benefits of Omega-3
Omega-3 Fatty acids are an important component for your health and metabolism.
The metabolites derived from Omega-3 are antiinflamatory, or less pro-inflammatory than those from Omega-6.
An adequate Omega-3 intake could improve the chronic inflammation state and our cell's health (study)
Omega-3 also protects you from cardiovascular events (meta-analysis), improve the brain function (study), shape your gut microbiota composition (study), and improve your inmune response (study).
Recommended Intake of Omega-3
Recommened intake of Omega-3 vary from person to person, depending on their needs and situation.
For general population, the recommended intake of Omega-3 is 250-500 mg/week.
If you have health issues and require o more Omega-3 to prevent from health consequences, the recommended intake may go up to 4000 mg/week.
Forms of Omega-3 Supplements
Omega-3 can be obtained from both diet and supplementation. Through diet, 2-3 intakes of fatty fish per week should be enough to reach the recommended intake.
There are different forms of omega-3 supplements, and not all are the same. Depending on the product, the bioavailability and properties of the product will differ.
Which one is the best? Keep reading!
Omega-3 supplements mainly come formulated as a triglyceride. Three omega-3 fatty acids are attached to a glycerol backbone (study).
This is the form omega-3 are found in nature. When consuming fatty fish, or a supplement of fish oil, it will come on its triglyceride form.
Around 98% of all dietary fats are consumed as triglycerides, and our digestive tract is designed to optimally absorb these molecules.
The glycerol backbone is essential for the transport of omega-3 through the blood to its final destination (study).
Monoglycerides claim to have a higher bioavailability than triglycerides (study). This may be due to the smaller structure of monoglycerides compared to triglycerides.
The promising and novel evidence is there (study), and it seems like the bioavailability of omega-3 does improve in this form when compared to other forms.
Omega-3 are also found in ethyl ester form.
It's produced by re-esterifying the triglycerides. By adding ethanol, the glycerol backbone is released, and each of the fatty acids is converted into an ethly ester.
Compared with other forms of omega-3, ethyl ester have lower bioavailability and worse pharmacokinetics (study).
However, the synthetic structure of ethly ester improves the chemical properties of the products (stability, shelf life, oxidation,...)
Different Omega-3 Supplements
Omega-3 is found in a wide spectrum of marine sources, and some plant sources as well.
But they are not the same; he composition and form of omega-3 may vary slightly.
In the next 3min, we compare the different omega-3 supplements!
The most popular and consumed Omega-3 supplement. As a natural marine source, fish oil contains omega-3 maily in its triglyceride form.
Fish oil Omega-3 Supplements is the closest you can get to real fish consumption. Its content in EPA and DHA ranks between 18-31% (study)
Fish oil naturally contains vitamin A and D, acting as antioxidant and preventing the fatty acids to oxidize and go rancid.
There are fish oils available from different sources. Salmon, herring, pollock, sardines... They can be available on liquid or gel capsules form.
Green-lipped mussel oil
The green-lipped mussel is a bivalve found in the coasts of New Zealand. It contains Omega-3 fatty acids in its triglyceride and free fatty acids.
Omega-3 supplements of green-lipped mussel oil have a great bioavailability profile.
Omega-3 from green-lipped mussel also contains ETA (eicosatetraenoic acid), a rare Omega-3 fatty acid that may be even better at solving the inflammation state than EPA or DHA (study)
Krill Oil is an Omega-3 supplement obtained from the Krill, a small crustacean found in the Nordic Sea (study).
This omega-3 supplement contains omega-3 mainly in its triglyceride and phospholipid form (study)
Krill Oil also contains antioxidant components such as astaxhantins. This compound has strong benefits in your organism (study)
Processed Fish Oils
Often fish oils need to be purified and/or concentrated to improve the properties of the product (stability, shelf-life,...).
To achieve this, the natural fish oil is synthetically esterified, forming an omega-3 supplement in its ethyl ester form.
The bioavailability of ethyl esters is lower compared to triglycerides or monoglyerols (study). Ethyl Esters also seem to be more prone to oxidation (study).
Algal Oil is a marine vegan source of omega-3. It's the primest and most natural source of omega-3.
Fish obtain their omega-3 from the consumption of algae.
Algal Oil has higher concentrations of DHA than fish oil (study). It also contains some Omega-9 fatty acids, and other minerals like iodine.
The nutritional matrix of algal oil is one of the most complete and interesting of all the different omega-3 supplements.
Flaxseed is the main plant source of Omega-3 (study). It contains around 1.8g of omega-3 for 100g of flaxseed. However, the fatty acid present in plantsource is ALA, rather than EPA and DHA.
The conversion from ALA to EPA and DHA is considerable low in our organism (study). To obtain the required amounts of EPA and DHA from flaxseed oil, we'd need to take larger amounts of the supplement.
Omega-3 are a series of polyunsaturated fatty acids that show health benefits, including lower risk of cardiovascular disease, antiinflamatory effect, muscle recovery or improved composition of the gut microbiota.
These fatty acids may come in different forms and from different sources. In this post, we reviewed the different omega-3 supplements available, with their 'pros' and 'cons'.
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