Why Plant Based Omega-3 Alpha-Linolenic Acid?

Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids are Present in Plants as well as Fish.

It has been well-established that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to human health. The Lyon Heart Study, the GISSI Prevenzione Trial, and The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Study have shown that omega-3 fish oils support cardiovascular health and reduce pain and swelling in arthritis.

Most know that the essential polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids (PUFAs) are found in fish as they are often referred to as “fish oil,” but it is interesting to know that PUFAs are also found in some plants. The main fish PUFAs are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and the main plant omega-3 is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

The omega-3s found in fish oils are mostly what are called “long chain” fatty acids simply because their chemical structure is longer than the short and medium chain fatty acids. Plants contain the shorter chain omega-3s including alpha-linolenic acid. ALA is found in leafy green vegetables and seeds and can be converted to the long chain fatty acids in the human body although this process is limited.

Dietary variety is good. One should obtain omega-3 from plants, as well as fish. Omega-3 are readily oxidized and break down very quickly when exposed to oxygen in your body. Vitamin E to can help prevent omega-3 from quickly becoming oxidized and turning rancid. Fish oils are low in vitamin E, while plant sources of omega-3s have good vitamin E content and offer some protection from rapid oxidation.

Historically, humans have consumed a diet that contained approximately equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids, but over the past 150 years, humans have increased their consumption of omega-6s by using large amounts of vegetable oils from the seeds of corn, sunflower, safflower, cotton and soybeans. These oils are used in many processed foods, frozen foods, margarines, French fries, potato chips, and bakery products.

Omega-6 fatty acids, like omega-3 are also essential in that they cannot be produced by the body and need to be taken in from food, however these are much more readily available, especially in the contemporary American diet. Today Americans eat a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids that is almost 20 times higher in omega-6s than omega-3s, instead of the historic ratio of about 1-2:1. To meet your needs for short chain omega-3 fatty acids found in plants, eat lots of green leafy vegetables, some whole grains, seeds and nuts. Fish, chicken and some grass fed red meat are sources of omega-3. Grass fed red meat is preferable to grain fed as it has increased concentrations of omega-3. Grain fed red meat has been implicated in contributing to the increasing omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in the contemporary American diet.

Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are needed.  An omega-3 supplement can be a beneficial addition to improve your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, especially for the diabetes diet and for those with metabolic dysfunction causing a prediabetes condition. A proper omega-6 to omega-3 ratio confers better health and improved cholesterol-lipid levels.

Visit the NutrientologyTM Store for Omega-3 Supplements.


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About Robert Creighton

Dr. Creighton is a podiatrist and foot surgeon with over 26 years in podiatric practice treating thousands of patients afflicted with the physiological, physical, and psychological side effects and complications of diabetes and pre-diabetes metabolic syndrome. He believes these disorders present a pressing public health concern that need to be more actively addressed in a multidisciplinary way. Dr. Creighton graduated from what is now the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine after receiving his undergraduate degree in Biology. He is certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery, a member of the American Public Health Association, an American College of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and a Member of the American Nutrition Association.

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