Q : What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Where Are They Found?
A : Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids in the human diet that are primarily found in oily fish like salmon, sardines, albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, etc. They are also available in fish oil capsules. The principle omega-3 fatty acids are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). A more rudimentary form of omega-3 is found in soybean oil, canola oil, and especially in flaxseed oil. It is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), but unlike EPA and DHA, it has not yet been shown to have significant cardiovascular benefits. In other words, flaxseed oil is definitely not a substitute for fish oil.
Q : What Is the Evidence That Omega-3 Oils Are Cardioprotective?
A: Over the last 25 years, compelling evidence has accumulated from epidemiological studies and large clinical trials demonstrating the cardioprotective effects of omega-3 oils. The strongest evidence to date relates to reducing risk for sudden cardiac death (SCD), the primary cause of coronary heart disease (CHD) death in the US today.
Q : What Does the American Heart Association Say About Omega-3?
A : Patients with documented CHD should consume about 1 g of EPA+DHA per day, and those without documented CHD should eat a variety of fish, preferably oily, at least twice a week. The latter would provide about 500 mg of EPA+DHA daily.
Q : Does DHA increase the bad cholesterol known as "LDL-cholesterol"?
A : Recent studies have shown that DHA may increase slightly the LDL-cholesterol content in your blood. However, there is no evidence that DHA increases the dangerous LDL subgroup called "apo-100". It is this particular LDL-subgroup "apo-100" which is correlated to an increased cardiovascular risk not the entire LDL-cholesterol. Thus, DHA may increase the LDL cholesterol in your blood but it does not increase your cardiovascular risk. In contrary, many studies show that DHA together with EPA show more beneficial cardiovascular effects than pure EPA. This explains why the AHA (American Heart Association) recommends the intake of both EPA + DHA on a daily basis.
Q : What makes DHA so important for human life?
A : DHA is not only anti inflammatory like EPA, it is also an essential building block of our eyes and brain. Over 70% of our photoreceptors in our eyes consist of DHA. Without DHA we could not see. DHA enables the electrical flow of information in our brain. It enables us to learn and to have memories. 35% of our synapsis membrane consists of DHA. Over the last 500-600 million years nature found no alternative to DHA. Without this essential fatty acid humanity could not exist. Problem with DHA is that it gets easily destroyed by oxidation and free radical attack. The older we get, the less effective are our own anti-oxidant systems. More and more brain cells get damaged and destroyed. However, our body can repair and replace a large part of the damaged DHA molecules while we are at sleep. But this is only possible if we offer our brain on a daily basis sufficient fresh DHA.
Q: Can DHA prevent Dementia and brain shrinkage?
A: Several studies have shown, that a sufficient and regular DHA supply together with B-vitamins (B6, B12 and Folic Acid) can significantly slow down the age related cognitive decline and brain shrinkage. It is important to know, that this protection only works as a prevention. Once the brain cells have died, nothing can bring them back. So the goal must be to avoid as early as possible all potential oxidative brain damage by ensuring a nutrition rich in DHA, B-vitamins and antioxidants.
Q: So DHA is more important than EPA?
A: No. Both EPA and DHA are important for us. EPA has strong anti-inflammatory properties and is involved in numerous biochemical pathways of our body. Generally and simplified speaking: EPA is anti-inflammatory and DHA is an important building block of your eyes, brain and nerves. We need both!
Q: Is it correct that DHA/EPA show anti-cancer properties?
Highly concentrated EPA (mostly as free fatty acid) indeed has shown some remarkable effects during treatment of mainly colon- and breast cancer. A high blood concentration of EPA seems to be beneficial in suppressing the PGE-2 and growth hormone synthesis. Also high concentrations of DHA showed promising results. More studies are needed but there is evidence that both EPA and DHA can be beneficial together with standard anti-cancer therapy. Important here seems to be the dose. 2-7 g per day of pure EPA and/or DHA were applied in most studies.
Q: Are "Fish Oil" capsules the same as "Omega-3" capsules?
A: No!. while Fish Oil capsules contain about 20-30% EPA+DHA they are not comparable with "Omega-3" capsules. Serious "Omega-3" capsule manufacturers will make sure their capsules contain at least 3 times more EPA+DHA than Fish Oil capsules. So 60-90% pure Omega-3. These capsules are at first sight more expensive than standard Fish Oil capsules but contain much more of the value giving ingredients (EPA+DHA), contain much less or no saturated fats, omega-6 fats, cholesterol and usually are contain far less contaminants like heavy metals, pesticides, PCB´s, etc..
After doing the math correctly, highly concentrated Omega-3 fish oil capsules are often even more economical than standard Fish Oil capsules and in all cases much more effective.
Q: Is Krill Oil a good Omega-3 source?
A: definitely NO. Krill oil is a wonderful product for phospholipids and the natural antioxidant known as Astaxanthin. However, they only contain very little EPA and DHA. They are not a good EPA and DHA source. Often Krill Oil suppliers argue with a better bioavailability / absorption of their omega-3´s. It is correct that the omega-3´s in a krill oil are mostly found in phospholipids and that phospholipids are better absorbed than triglycerides or ethyl esters. However, this is mainly true for the fastened state. If you take your omega-3 supplement together with a meal, the food contains so many phospholipids and triglycerides that your pancreatic enzymes are fully activated and there will be very little, if at all, difference in the absorption of the resulting omega-3 free fatty acids. No matter if they were previously ingested as phospholipid, triglyceride or ethyl ester.
Just check how many krill oil capsules you would need to take per day in order to assure a minimum intake of 1000 mg EPA+DHA. That will directly answer your question if krill oil is a good omega-3 source.