Types of Omega-3 Fatty Acids: EPA, DHA, ALA and the Difference

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Types of Omega-3 Fatty AcidsTypes of omega-3 fatty acids include EPA, DHA and ALA, but do the differences matter? And as a consumer, what do you need to know?

Omega-3 goes by many names, including fish oil, essential fatty acids, and poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s). To take it one step further, there are two types of omega-3s, long chain and short chain fatty acids.

Types of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The long chain omega-3s come from marine sources such as fish, or more specifically from the micro-algae the fish eats. The long chain omega-3 fatty acids are also found in clams, crab, lobster and ship. The two primary types of long-chain omega-3s are:

  • EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
  • DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)

While salmon is the most popular fatty fish that is eaten by people, anchovies, sardines, mackerel and herring are also high in omega-3. A combination of wild-caught anchovy, sardine and mackerel fish oils provide the omega-3 fatty acids in Cooper Complete Advanced Omega-3, but cod and krill are also common.

Short-chain omega-3s come from plant sources like flax, chia, hemp, canola oil, and walnuts. The primary short-chain omega-3 is:

  • ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)

The human body automatically uses EPA and DHA, but must convert ALA into EPA and DHA, but the conversion is somewhere between 6 and 10 percent. This conversion means that 100 mg ALA will provide somewhere between 6 and 10 mg total EPA and DHA. Some research indicates vegans and non-fish-eating vegetarians may have increased levels of ALA to EPA.

The Difference in Types of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The short-chain omega-3s (ALA) are good but the long-chain omega-3s (EPA and DHA) are GREAT! Our bodies convert ALA into EPA and DHA, but research suggests that human bodies can be inefficient at this conversion process. If you want to maximize the health benefits of omega-3s, concentrate on getting most of your omega-3s from the long chain (EPA and DHA) sources such as fatty fish like salmon, herring, and trout, or taking fish oil (omega-3) supplements that contain a healthy dose of both EPA and DHA.

Remember, it’s important to talk with your physician before starting a new supplement regimen. To shop the entire line of Cooper Complete supplements, visit coopercomplete.com.

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