Better Nutrition|March 2020
The therapeutic effects of fish oil have been studied for over 50 years, revealing many benefits. And supplements present more options today than ever. Some offer higher concentrations of the EPA and DHA omega-3s, which means you don’t have to take as many pills. And others come in flavored liquid formulations, gummies, other chewable forms, or are made from vegan sources.
With so many choices, how do you decide? The answer boils down to your goals and overall diet, and it helps to understand a bit of science.
Why Fish Oil Is Beneficial
The key omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), drive its benefits. DHA is a major building block of the brain, central nervous system, and the retina. EPA works with DHA to reduce inflammation and help prevent or relieve a variety of conditions. Both are absorbed throughout the body, including into cell membranes, where they help to maintain the integrity of each cell and keep it functioning optimally.
The human body can make EPA and DHA from alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the form of omega-3s found in plants, but only a small portion of ALA is converted. It’s estimated that men convert about 8 percent to EPA and 0–4 percent to DHA; women convert about 21 percent to EPA and 9 percent to DHA.
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