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What you need to know about omega-3 fatty acids

You can find out what omega-3 fatty acids are and what effect they have on our health in our blog.

The most important component of our dietary fats are fatty acids. A distinction is made between saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. The classification refers to the chemical bond between the individual carbon atoms. This can be either single (saturated fatty acids) or in the form of one (monounsaturated) or more (polyunsaturated) double bonds.

Fatty acids not only serve the body as an important energy supplier, but are also components of the biomembranes of the body's cells and precursors of hormone-like substances, the so-called eicosanoids (e.g. prostaglandins and leukotrienes). These messenger substances are produced by every cell in the body and play an important role in inflammatory reactions, blood pressure, blood clotting and the aggregation of platelets (thrombocyte aggregation) as well as in maintaining healthy blood vessels. They are made from polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Table of contents:

  1. What positive effect do omega-3 fatty acids have on our health?
  2. How do I provide my body with sufficient omega-3 fatty acids?
  3. Fish and fish oil capsules: Frequently high dioxin, PCB and heavy metal contamination

What positive effect do omega-3 fatty acids have on our health?

Eicosanoids, which are formed from omega-6 fatty acids (e.g. linoleic acid or arachidonic acid), tend to have undesirable (e.g. pro-inflammatory) properties. In contrast, eicosanoids from omega-3 fatty acids are said to have a positive (e.g. anti-inflammatory) effect. We can influence which of these eicosanoids are formed through our diet. This is because both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids must be obtained from food, as the body cannot produce them itself. This dietary approach is used, for example, in the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatism, chronic intestinal inflammation or neurodermatitis.

The positive effects of omega-3 fatty acids on health became known in the 1970s. At the time, scientists were investigating the diets and disease rates of the Greenland Eskimos. The spectacular result: Despite high fat consumption, there are fewer cardiovascular diseases. The reason for this is said to be the high omega-3 content of their diet. Subsequent studies also confirm this: Omega-3 fatty acids appear to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Fatty acids obtained from food are not only used to form eicosanoids, but are also incorporated into our cell membranes. The more polyunsaturated fatty acids are incorporated, the more elastic the biomembrane becomes. This can also lead to improved cell function and signal transmission. The concentration of omega-3 fatty acids is therefore particularly high in the nerve cells of the brain and in the retina of the eye. Whether omega-3 fatty acids can also improve cognitive performance is still being debated. Omega-3 fatty acids are also thought to play a role in the prevention of depression.

How do I provide my body with sufficient omega-3 fatty acids?

Many people associate omega-3 fatty acids with fish or fish oil capsules. However, the origin of these healthy fatty acids lies in the plant world: grasses, seeds and algae. Our omega 3 vegan capsules are purely plant-based and contain algae oil.

The most important omega-3 fatty acid is considered to be alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which can be found in rapeseed and linseed oil, chia seeds and walnuts. It is an essential nutrient, which means that our body does not need to produce it itself and must obtain it from food. In the liver, alpha-linolenic acid can be converted into the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

However, this conversion is limited. To ensure an adequate supply of long-chain fatty acids, it is therefore advisable to take long-chain omega-3 fatty acids directly via food supplements.

Experts therefore recommend a daily intake of 0.2-0.6% of the daily energy of omega-3 fatty acids. At the same time, a omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 5:1 should be aimed for . As omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids compete for the same enzyme (lipoxygenase) in the formation of eicosanoids, a high intake of omega-6 fatty acids makes it more difficult to form sufficient long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids such as the essential linoleic acid are mainly found in vegetable oils (e.g. sunflower oil, wheat germ oil), while the long-chain arachidonic acid is found in animal products.

Fish and fish oil capsules: Frequently high dioxin, PCB and heavy metal contamination

Fish consumption is often recommended to increase the intake of omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3 content of fish varies considerably - depending on the type of fish, whether aquaculture or wild-caught. Only fatty cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The problem here: overfishing of the oceans, the prophylactic use of antibiotics in breeding farms and the contamination of many fish with environmental toxins.

Fish and fish oil capsules during pregnancy and breastfeeding

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for the brain, vision and heart function. It is therefore particularly important for pregnant women and children to have an adequate supply. It has been scientifically proven that the intake of DHA contributes to the normal development of vision in infants up to the age of 12 months and to the normal development of the child's brain during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Pregnant and breastfeeding women therefore often take fish and fish oil capsules. But what many do not know: Fish can be significantly contaminated with environmental toxins.

Mercury contamination is particularly problematic, as unborn and newborn babies are especially susceptible to the toxic effects of this heavy metal. Even a single portion of fish per week of pregnancy can lead to a higher mercury concentration in the newborn. Pregnant women should therefore ensure that they come into contact with as little mercury as possible.

Also PCBs (polychlorobiphenyls) and dioxins are frequently found in fish. A study of over twelve thousand foodstuffs in various countries showed that fish and fish oil have the highest PCB concentrations. This is partly due to the fact that fish are usually particularly long-lived and dioxins and PCBs accumulate in the body fat of fish due to their good fat solubility.


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