Making Sense of Omega Fatty Acids


As many of my patients will confirm, Omega 3 fatty acids tend to be one of the supplements I recommend most often and with great conviction. Omega 3 supplementation has been well researched and shown to have powerful effects on depression, inflammation, cardiovascular health, and behavioral health, amongst other things. Because of their effect on stabilizing cell membranes, Omega fatty acids are necessary to the function of every single cell in our bodies. Many of these protective benefits have been attributed to the Omega 3 fatty acids DHA (docosohexanoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).

While Omega 3 fatty acids tend to be commonly used, there are a few factors that are well worth knowing when choosing an appropriate supplement.

#1: Flax and Fish Oils Are Different! The most commonly marketed sources of Omega 3 fatty acids are fish oil and flax oil. One of the important dissimilarities between the two is that in the body flax oil must undergo an additional step to convert its Omega 3 fatty acids to DHA and EPA. Some people don’t do this internal conversion very well, therefore already converted oils become a more sure-fire treatment. Fish oil is more potent and more readily available for your body to use. While flax has many other benefits, if the goal is solely to increase DHA and EPA, consider a fish oil source.

#2: Source Matters!
Fish oils must be distilled in order to remove heavy metals and isolate DHA and EPA. This is a process that is difficult to do correctly. Studies have shown that fish oils that are not processed correctly are actually worse for you than not taking the fish oil at all! As they are exposed to oxygen, the oils become rancid and change structurally. They are then able to form free radicals, which can promote cell damage.

#3: Never mind the 3-6-9 Combination Supplements!
While there seems to be a current marketing trend in Omega 3-6-9 combination supplements, today’s standard American diet provides us with an overwhelming amount of Omega 6 and 9 fats in the form of vegetable oils like corn, olive, and canola oil. In my opinion, using these combination supplements does not serve to correct the real problem, which is not an overall deficiency in Omega fatty acids, but specifically a deficiency in Omega 3 fatty acids.

While I am always conscious of the quality of the supplements my patients are taking, I pay particularly close attention to the quality, source, and amount of Omega 3s. At Steelsmith Natural Health Center, we have a few specific high quality Omega 3 oils that we recommend for different circumstances. Ask me at your next visit which Omega 3 oils are best for you!

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