Everybody has heard of omega-3 fatty acid. It is a great substance exists in lots of fishes, especially salmon. Omega-3 fatty acid is healthy for brain development, vision, and reduces heart attack. They are important components of the membranes of your body cells. DHA levels are high in the eyes, brain and sperm cells. Salmons store lots of oils in their muscles so they have very high omega-3 fatty acid levels.
The three main omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). (nih.gov)
Where can we find ALA?
In plant oils like flaxseed, soybean and canola oil. Since ALA is an essential oil, we HAVE TO obtain it from the oils mentioned above. Extremely small amount of ALA converts into EPA and DHA, there fore it is very important for us to consume food high in the omega-3 fatty acids.
How much omega-3s do we need?
The table above shows the ALA level for people with different sex and age groups. There is no set recommendation for the amount of EPA and DHA we need to consume. Meaning there is no minimum set as to how much we have to consume. US FDA, however, do recommends no more than 5 g/day of EPA and DHA combined from dietary supplements. But for the heart health, blood vessels, lungs, immune system, endocrine system, eye health and brain development, we need to make sure we are consuming salmon at least twice per week.
Let's do a calculation for ourselves, family, and friends to see exactly how much ALA levels we need. The following is a table with detailed numbers of the grams per serving for the food with omega-3s. We can easily see that salmon is on top of the list and they are rich in DHA and EPA. We often hear DHA in infant/toddler formula, and how they advertise how their formula is rich in DHA, so there is indeed great benefits to feed our little ones with salmon, which is rich in DHA.
Personally, I need to obtain 1.1 g of ALA per day. By looking at the list, everyone can easily obtain this 1.1 g of ALA by using 1 tbsp of canola oil to cook. If we go over our recommended level, that is totally fine, there will be no side effects or cause any harm to us. As far as DHA and EPA, it is very important to try to eat salmon at least two times per week in the household. Consume nuts and seeds regularly if they don't cause you allergic reactions. Buy fortifies food like certain eggs, milk, yogurt, juice, soy milk, infant formulas that says they are high in omega-3s.
Does omega-3s really help with heart, infant health and other illnesses?
1. For cardiovascular disease:
Studies have shown getting more EPA and DHA can lower the triglyceride levels in your blood vessel. Triglyceride is a type of fat found in your blood vessels. When you consume over the amount of calories recommended for you, your body turns the excessive calories into triglycerides. High levels of triglycerides can lead to heart disease, heart attack and stroke. AHA (American Heart Association) recommends consuming 1 to 2 servings of seafood to reduce the risk of getting heart problems. For people with heart disease, AHA recommends 1g EPA+DHA/day or taking omega-3 supplements under the guidelines of health providers.
So can I take omega-3 supplements instead of eating salmon if I'm healthy?
AHA does not recommend people with no cardiovascular disease taking omega-3 supplements.
2. For Infant health and development:
Studies show that during pregnancy and breastfeeding period, eating 8 to 12 ounces of fish and other seafood can improve baby's health. However, when choosing the fish, make sure you read the label and check the levels of mercury and EPA, DHA. Mercury level has to be low, EPA and DHA has to be high. For instance, salmon, herrings, sardine and trout. There is no clear conclusion that taking dietary supplements can have a positive influence during pregnancy or breastfeeding infants. Studies do show that taking the supplements can slightly increase the infant's weight and the length of time they stay in the mother's womb. Both breastmilk and formula contains DHA.
Large clinical trials found that omega-3 supplements did not reduce overall risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancers.
Some but not all research studies show that consuming more omega-3s can reduce the risk of having Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and cognitive function. More studies needed to show the effect on the brain.
Studies suggest taking higher amount of omega-3s can reduce the risk of developing AMD. However it does not help or making the condition better when the individual already develops the disease.
More research and clinical trials are needed because precious results leads to different conclusions.
Overall, don't forget to get a piece of salmon every time you do you grocery shopping as they have great benefits!