The omega-3 fatty acids belong to the group of unsaturated fatty acids. If all the carbon atoms in a fatty acid are saturated with hydrogen atoms, this is referred to as "saturated" fatty acids. These are mostly of animal origin and can increase our cholesterol levels and cause changes in our blood vessels, which is why they should only be consumed in moderation. On the other hand, if at least two adjacent carbon atoms are linked by double bonds, one speaks of an "unsaturated" fatty acid. If there are several of these double bonds, one speaks of "polyunsaturated fatty acids".
"Omega" as the last letter of the Greek alphabet stands for the last carbon atom within the fatty acid chain at the methyl end. The first double bond at this end is on the third carbon atom, which explains the number "3" in the name.
The most important omega-3 fatty acids include:
- the triple saturated alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) found in flaxseed, canola and walnut oils
- the 5-fold saturated eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which comes from the fat of cold-water fish such as salmon
- the 6 times saturated docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in fish oils and some algae
Omega-3 fatty acids (also called linolenic acid) are among the "essential fatty acids" that the body cannot produce itself from other nutrients. In addition to the omega-3, there is also the omega-6 fatty acid, which is also known as linoleic acid. While there is usually no lack of omega-6 fatty acids in our food, the situation is different with omega 3: according to the 12th nutrition report of the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), the recommended amounts for fish, namely 80-150 grams, are lower in fat Sea fish and 70 grams of high-fat sea fish per week – significantly lower for both men and women. Men take in an average of only 250 mg EPA/DHA per day, women only 150 mg. This underscores the importance of dietary supplements in supplying omega-3 fatty acids.
In addition to the absolute amount, the optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is also important. According to nutritionists, this would be 3-5 to 1. In fact, it is 20:1. Too much omega-6 fatty acid (especially arachidonic acid) is problematic in inflammatory diseases such as rheumatism and arthritis. The EPA fatty acid displaces the arachidonic acid within the metabolism and thus counteracts inflammation. In order to benefit from the benefits of omega-6 fatty acids without harming the body elsewhere, a balanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is relevant.
Benefit and mode of action
DHA contributes to the maintenance of normal brain function and vision if at least 250 mg are consumed daily. In addition, EPA and DHA contribute to normal heart function if they are taken in a daily amount of 250 mg. Replacing saturated fatty acids with monounsaturated and/or polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet helps maintain normal blood cholesterol levels.
Regarding infants, intake of DHA (100 mg daily) contributes to the normal development of vision up to 12 months of age. Maternal intake of DHA (200 mg additional daily) contributes to normal brain and eye development in the fetus and breastfed infant.
Omega-3 fatty acids help to maintain normal levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood and normal blood pressure (respectively 2 and 3 g daily are required for this).
The US government's National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the world's largest biomedical research organization and has published a comprehensive overview of the current state of research on omega-3 fatty acids on their website: https:// odsod.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/
There it says, among other things: "People who eat fish and other seafood have a lower risk of various chronic diseases [...]."
The following topic areas are mentioned on the current study situation regarding the influence of omega-3 fatty acids on health:
Cardiovascular Disease: Many studies show that eating oily fish and other types of seafood as part of a healthy diet helps keep the heart healthy and protects against some heart problems. For example, when more EPA and DHA are consumed from foods or supplements, triglyceride levels are lowered. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people with heart disease consume about 1g of EPA and DHA per day, preferably from oily fish.
Infant Health and Development: During pregnancy and breastfeeding, eating 8-12 ounces of fish and other seafood per week can improve baby's health. However, it is important to choose fish that are higher in EPA and DHA, such as salmon. Some studies also show that taking omega-3 supplements can slightly increase a baby's weight at birth and the length of time the baby is in the womb. Both can be beneficial. Breast milk also contains DHA.
Cancer Prevention: Some studies suggest that people who consume more omega-3 fatty acids have a lower risk of breast cancer and possibly colon cancer. However, a large clinical study found that omega-3 supplements did not reduce the overall risk of cancer, nor the risk of breast, prostate, or colon cancer. Further ongoing clinical studies will help clarify whether omega-3 fatty acids influence cancer risk.
Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia, and Cognitive Function: Some - but not all - research indicates that people who consume more omega-3 fatty acids from foods like fish may have a lower risk Alzheimer's, dementia and other problems with cognitive function. More research is needed on the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on the brain.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. Studies suggest that people who get higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from the foods they eat may have a lower risk of developing AMD. But once someone has AMD, taking omega-3 supplements does not prevent the disease from getting worse or slowing down vision loss.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): RA causes chronic pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the joints. Some clinical studies have shown that taking omega-3 supplements in combination with standard RA medications and other treatments can help manage RA. For example, people with RA who take omega-3 supplements may need less pain-relieving medication, but it's not clear whether the supplements reduce joint pain, swelling, or morning stiffness.
The effect of omega-3 fatty acids on cardiac health has been extensively researched for several decades. The focus is primarily on DHA and EPA. For example, in a US meta-study18 randomized clinical trials and 16 prospective cohort studies were examined. When considering risk groups, omega-3 fatty acid intake resulted in a 16% reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease in participants with elevated triglyceride levels (>= 150 mg /dl), and a 14% decrease among participants with high LDL cholesterol (>= 130 mg/dl). The result from the cohort studies was even clearer: they showed a reduction of as much as 18% when taking omega-3 fatty acids. (cf. Alexander, Dominik D., et al., A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials and Prospective Cohort Studies of Eicosapentaenoic and Docosahexaenoic Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Coronary Heart Disease Risk, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, January 2017, Volume 92, Issue 1, pp. 15-29.)
A 2016 meta-study based on 19 clinical trials from 16 countries with a total of ~46,000 participants postulates that omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, i.e. DPA and EPA, increase chances of surviving after a heart attack
The proportion of EPA and EHA is decisive for the effectiveness of omega 3 fatty acids - both components are particularly high in the QIDOSHA product at 50 and 25%. DHA is particularly important for brain performance and can support the ability to learn and think when it is optimally available in the body. EPA, on the other hand, supports physical exertion in particular and can have a positive effect on one's state of mind..