It’s common for people to refer to omega oils as fish oil, but it’s important to know that omega oils and fish oil are not always one and the same. So what should one know when they’re considering adding omega supplements to their health routine? We have the breakdown you’re looking for.
Here are a few things to consider when choosing an omega supplement.
Top 3 Things to Know About Omega Supplements
#1: Understand Your Body’s Needs
When deciding to supplement any nutrient into your routine, the first thing to understand is what your body needs. With omegas, particularly omega 3 and omega 6, your body needs 90-95% “parent” omega oils. Eight percent or less is converted into “derivatives.” So, what are derivatives? These are the omegas that are created in the body by linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Your body needs and uses multiple forms of omega fatty acids on a regular basis. With that being said, there is one type of omega 3 (alpha-linolenic acid) and one type of omega 6 (linoleic acid) that your body cannot make or synthesize on its own. These omegas must come from food. We often refer to these two forms of omegas as the “parent” form of omegas.
All other forms of fatty acids, including the highly talked about EPA and DHA, are created in your body from the parent omegas LA and ALA. Since your body needs 90-95% parent omegas, it would make sense to use a supplement that contains the parent versions. Interestingly enough, fish oil, a popular supplement, doesn’t contain any parent omega at all! With fish oil, you are overdosing on derivatives which your body doesn’t actually need supplemented.
There are some myths out there that the reason the body only converts about 5% of the omegas into derivatives is that it can’t produce more than that, or is somehow not working correctly even though it needs more. But when you look at your cellular structure, it only contains the parent omegas and none of the derivatives. These derivatives are mainly used in specialty areas of the body. Specifically, in the eyes and the brain. Not to diminish the importance of derivatives, they are certainly important! However, when talking about volume and quantity needed, the parent omegas (LA and ALA) are used in far more places than the derivatives, and it’s easy to see that the body doesn’t produce more simply because it doesn’t need more. Studies also show that when you go over the normal dose of derivatives like EPA and DHA, the total levels of those substances in the body don’t rise because your body actually eliminates them, indicating you don’t need the additional amounts.
When choosing an omega, the first thing to look for is whether the supplement contains the parent omega oils. Parent omegas are often found in plant oils such as flax oil, pumpkin seed oil, sunflower seed oil, borage oil and evening primrose oil, to name a few. Flax oil contains mostly omega 3, all the other oils are higher in omega 6, but also contain omega 3.
#2: Where Are the Omega Oils Coming From?
The second thing that is important to look at when supplementing omega oils is the source of the oil. There are two very different kinds of plant oils, in loose terms: refined and unrefined.
These healthy plant oils are often refined and used in frying. When the oil goes through the refining process, including bleaching, deodorizing, heating and hydrogenation, it ends up very different than the unrefined version at which it started. Each of the refinements damages the oil, and hydrogenated oils, for example, are often referred to as trans fats.
In both cases, you can have the same oil, but depending on how it was processed, it can be very different. In turn, your body will respond to it differently. For supplementation, you want to make sure the seed oils are unrefined and cold pressed to avoid any of the damage that is done to the oil. Supplements with organic ingredients are also best in order to avoid chemical residues that may be present from non-organic farming practices. Fish oil typically goes through heat and chemical processes to extract the oil, which is one more reason to avoid fish oil as an ingredient in your supplement.
#3: Look at the Different Omegas
The third thing to look for is a supplement that has more omega 6 than it does omega 3. This is because your body needs around 4 to 6 times more omega 6 than it does omega 3. Overall, omega 6 has incredible anti-inflammatory properties and is extremely important in your body.
A common myth you may hear is that you shouldn’t supplement much omega 6 because you get plenty from your diet. Most of what comes from diet is the refined, adulterated variety and not the healthy fats your body needs. Some supplements list the amount of each omega on the label, but if the supplement you’re looking at does not, simply look for supplements with more of the omega 6 rich oils like sunflower, pumpkin and evening primrose oil. Flax oil is mostly omega 3, so it’s good to have that in a supplement as well but make sure that it’s less than omega 6-rich oils. Fish oil doesn’t contain any omega 6, and no “parent” omega 3, which is yet another reason to avoid fish oil as a supplement.
Healthy for Life Has the Omegas You’re Looking For
When you’re looking for an omega supplement, keep in mind our top three tips so you can find the omega supplement that’s right for you. Take a look at our omega 3-6-9 supplements to learn more about omegas!
Interested in learning more about Healthy for Life supplements? Take a look at our blog or check out our webinars. We offer Healthy for Life U, a 12-step course in learning about how supplements can play a vital role in your health!