Incredible Benefits of Omega-3 Essential Fats (EPA, DHA, DPA and ALA)

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Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fats, as the human body needs them in order to function normally and are not naturally produced by the body. They are often referred to as the “healthy” fats. They consist of four different types: ALA, EPA, DPA, and DHA, and humans obtain these nutrients directly from food.

The primary sources for EPA and DHA are seafood high in fat, such as salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, and mackerel. On the other hand, ALA comes from plant sources such as flax seed. Unlike DHA and EPA, ALA does not necessarily stand “on its own” as a fatty acid; rather, it converts in the human body to either DHA or EPA. DPA, which is less well known, is considered almost as important as either EPA or DHA. EPA can be converted to DPA in your body.

To start, research has shown that omega-3 essential fats help to support a healthy heart by lowering triglycerides and reducing the risk of heart disease, arrhythmias, and heart attack when sources of DHA or EPA, typically fish, are consumed twice a week. For those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, taking fish oil supplements, which are rich in both EPA and DHA, can help to lessen stiffness and thus reduce joint pain, and some studies indicate that taking fish oil supplements in conjunction with the standard anti-inflammatory drugs used to treat arthritis can boost the benefits of both.

These fatty acids also play a significant role in the human brain, potentially reducing instances of depression and lessening symptoms of bipolar disorder, as well as supporting optimal brain growth during pregnancy and early childhood. Making omega-3 essential fats a part of your regular diet can also improve cognitive function and the attention span of those dealing with ADHD, and preliminary research points to a connection between a slowdown in the cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Other not as well known sources of omega-3 fatty acids include omega-3 eggs, grass fed beef, and free-range chicken. When animals are fed high omega-3 rich feed such as flax, algae, and types of grass the omegas end up in the flesh of the animals and in the case of chickens in the eggs as well.