Which acid is an omega-3 fat?
There are three main omega-3 fatty acids in omega-3 fat: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found mainly in plant oils such as chia seeds, flaxseed, soybean oils, and canola oils.
In this article we’ll be discussing which acid is an omega-3 fat and what you need to know about them.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Definition
Omega-3 fatty acids are defined as an unsaturated fatty acid which occurs mainly in fish oils. It has double bonds between the carbon atoms that are third and second from the end of the hydrocarbon chain.
And as we’ve mentioned, they can only be three types of acid: Alpha-Linoleic acid (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
You’ll mainly find high amounts of EPA and DHA in products like fish oil, and you’re more likely to find more ALA in foods that are plant based like chia seeds and flax seeds.
ALA is harder for your body to convert into DHA and EPA, and in terms of benefit, is arguably the least effective of these fatty acids. You should be looking to get higher levels of EPA and DHA when striving for more omega-3s.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Structure
An omega−3 fatty acid is a fatty acid that has numerous double bonds. This is where the first double bond is between the third and fourth carbon atoms from the end of the carbon chain. Short chain omega−3 fatty acids have a chain which consists of 18 carbon atoms or fewer, whereas long chain omega−3 fatty acids have a chain of 20 carbon atoms or more.
Humans are unable to make omega-3 fatty acid ALA and can only get it through diet. From there we can convert it into EPA and DHA – but this can be a difficult process. This is done through creating more double bonds along the carbon chain and also by making it longer.
Here is the break down of the length of each omega-3 fatty acid structure:
- ALA: 18 carbon atoms and 3 double bonds
- EPA: 20 carbon atoms and 5 double bonds
- DHA: 22 carbon atoms and 6 double bonds
The older we get, the harder it is to make EPA and DHA from ALA. This is why it is good to add omega-3 supplementation to your supplement regimen as you get older to make sure that you have that extra support of EPA and DHA long into your older years.
What type of fat provides Omega 3?
Omega-3 fats are an essential family of polyunsaturated fats. There are three main omega-3s: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which come mainly from fish, sometimes called marine omega-3s and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is found mainly in plant food sources.
However, although marine omega-3s are mainly thought to be fish – the fish actually get this omega-3 from algal oil – which is algae.
Under the right conditions, algae synthesizes omega-3 via how strong the UV light is, as well as the glucose, sodium and oxygen in the water. Some of the best quality algal oil omega-3 supplements come from laboratory aquariums which can give you high value omega-3s without the risks associated with fish oil.
So, which acids are an Omega 3 fat?
The following acids are an Omega-3 fat:
- ALA: Alpha-linolenic acid
- EPA: Eicosapentaenoic acid
- DHA: Docosahexaenoic Acid
These are all part of the key family of polyunsaturated fats, and are great to supplement both in everyday life and for continued support as you age.