Selecting a Fish Oil That's Right For You
A fish oil are known to support health, but which oil is right for you?
Fish oils have been shown to benefit health in many ways and eating more fish is a good way of getting the most important omega-3 fatty acids. While there many types of omega-3 fatty acids, 3 in particular have been shown to be important at reducing the risk and severity of many health conditions:
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid): This fatty acid plays an important role in supporting nervous system and is known to support healthy brain and development and healthy vision. Along with EPA is is known to reduce inflammation.
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid): Believed to support the immune system, specifically reducing inflammation in the body but along with DHA it is also known to support cognitive functioning .
DPA (docosapentaenoic acid): This fatty-acid is often ignored and the role it plays in health is now getting more attention. DPA mediates DHA and EPA in the blood. With more DPA, the body can convert DHA to EPA and vice versa allowing for less waste and enhancing immune supportive effects. DPA is also believed to produce its own anti-inflammatory molecules, support weight loss and encourage tissue.
Omega-3 from plants?
Plants contain more ALA, a PUFA that is part of the omega-3 family. Unfortunately, ALA is poorly converted to the more beneficial EPA and DPA. However it is good to eat omega-3 rich plant foods to counter our omega-6-rich diet, go ahead and eat plenty of walnuts, hemp seeds, and flax seeds but also make sure you are eating fish and or taking a fish oil supplement. For those following a vegan diet, algal omega-3 are available and these do contain EPA and DPA.
Of course the microbiome is involved!
In studies looking at the influence of serum DHA on bacteria in the gut, it was found that a higher level of DHA was associated with bacterial groupings that are negatively correlated with Crohn's disease severity and intestinal inflammation. Several studies have shown that supplementing with fish oils is associated with greater microbial diversity- something we should all be striving for!
For general health at all ages, I recommend cod liver oil which is an economical way of getting these important fatty acids. It does contain more DHA than EPA, so will not target specific conditions but it naturally contains vitamin A and D which support the immune system. Though DPA is not listed on the packaging, cod liver oil contains small amounts of this important fatty acid.
For children and adolescents with ADHD, there are specific formulations that are available and researching trustworthy brands is worthwhile. It's important to understand that fish oil supplementation's role in mitigating the symptoms of ADHD is not clear, so it should be used in conjunction with other therapies like medication and/or neurofeedback.
For inflammatory and/or digestive conditions, I recommend a high ratio of EPA/DHA (2:1) with a high amount of DPA . This combination is best for supporting the immune system and more specifically for repairing affected tissues and enhancing the anti-inflammatory effects. For those specifically with intestinal inflammation, DPA is key as it supports both healthy immunity and improves gut barrier function. Another important factor to look for is something called PRM (pre-resolving mediators that are also known to support a healthy immune response. Get in touch with me if you're interested in purchasing a fish oil that contains a high EPA/DHA ratio and also contains DPA and PRMs.
Derbyshire E. Do Omega-3/6 Fatty Acids Have a Therapeutic Role in Children and Young People with ADHD? J Lipids. 2017;2017:1-9. doi:10.1155/2017/6285218.