What are Omega-3 Fatty acids?

Omega 3 fatty acids are a group of long chain PUFA essential throughout human life also called n-fatty acids or ω-3 fatty acids. They are deemed essential because the human body cannot produce them on its own. Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA; 18 carbon) cannot be made by the body. It is not in an active form and is thus converted to Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA; 20 carbon) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA; 22 carbon). But, the conversion is very limited where only about 5-10% gets converted to EPA and about 0.5-4% gets converted to DHA.

α-Linolenic Acid(ALA)

Mostly found in high fat plant sources such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, soybeans, etc. benefits include neuroprotection, cardiovascular wellbeing, protection against autoimmune responses and counter to inflammation. However, ALA is not very active form but is precursor for EPA and DHA

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)

Long chain ω-3 fatty acid critical for neurological & visual development, pregnancy cognitive and functional development of brain and optimal brain health. Also associated with cardiovascular health, inflammation prevention and immunity. Common sources are fish and dairy products with low levels in nuts, eggs and dairy products. Extremely limited in current human diet.

Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)

Another long chain ω-3 fatty acid mainly sourced via fatty fish, seafood and fish oil. It is important for heart, and cardiovascular health. It also prevents inflammation and is used to form intracellular signaling molecules called eicosanoids which regulate inflammation, immunity and central nervous system.


Omega 3 fatty acids play an important role in:

  • Fetal Development
  • Cardiovascular System
  • Body’s Defense
  • CNS and Cognitive Development
  • Cancer Prevention
  • Inflammation Prevention
  • Prevention of various diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Arthritis, Autoimmune diseases, Crohn’s disease, etc.

Humans originally consumed a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids. But due to changes in nutrition patterns due to modern food habits there have been changes in omega 3-fatty acid:omega 6-fatty acids ratio from ideally 1:1/1:4 to 1:38-1:50 in Indian population; and 1:10-25 in western population (Europe/US). This skewed ratio increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, obesity, osteoporosis and systemic inflammation.

Thus, it is recommended to intake omega 3-fatty acid supplements since human diet and cooking habits lead to an imbalance in uptake of necessary fatty acids. WHO (World Health Organization) recommends omega 3 fatty acids should comprise 1-2% of energy intake per day for the general adult population. Expert scientific organizations such as Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (USA), National Heart Foundation of Australia (Australia), International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL), Swiss Society for Nutrition and Research (Switzerland), Cardiology Society of India (India), Israel Heart Society (Israel) etc. recommended daily intakes of 250 mg-1 g of EPA+DHA

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