Fish Oils vs. Omega-3s: Unraveling the Difference


Fish oil is an oil obtained from the tissues of fish, while omega-3s are fatty acids, specifically polyunsaturated fatty acids.

There are many types of omega-3s, but the three most commonly found in scientific research are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

ALA is found in plant sources such as flaxseed, walnuts, and chia seeds. It is an essential fatty acid because the body cannot produce it, so it must be obtained from outside sources.

EPA and DHA are considered essential because the body can synthesize them. Humans have enzymes that partially convert ALA to EPA and, to some extent, to DHA. However, the level of such transformations is low.

To achieve optimal levels of EPA and DHA, it is best to obtain them from foods or supplements such as fish oil capsules, omega-3 capsules, or cod liver oil. Fish oil contains both EPA and DHA, making it useful for meeting this need.

Foods with Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

  1. Linseed oil
  2. Chia seeds
  3. Cod liver
  4. Atlantic salmon (salmon)
  5. Walnuts

Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

Omega-3 is a complex of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential for humans. They are not produced in the body, but they are necessary for the implementation of many processes and the normal functioning of organs.

Omega-3 contains three important polyunsaturated fatty acids, namely:

  1. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): It is found in plant foods such as chia and flax seeds, as well as vegetable oils such as hemp, sea buckthorn, mustard, and flax. Alpha-linolenic acid is used for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases.
  2. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): This substance is one of the main elements of lipids. DHA is found in the cell membrane of the brain and retina and plays an important role in visual function and cognitive development. Some scientists consider it the most valuable of the three omega-3 polyunsaturated acids. Fatty fish is the main group of products in which it is present.
  3. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): Its consumption from external sources reduces the risk of developing vascular and heart diseases, such as hypertension and coronary disease. Additionally, EPA helps reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in the body. Eicosapentaenoic acid is rich in the meat of cold-water fish, such as halibut, salmon, herring, and mackerel.

Of course, Omega-3 enters the human body through food, fatty fish species, and the seeds of some plants, but often this amount is not enough. Not every person eats fish 2-3 times a week, and under certain conditions, such as during the prenatal period, the need for the considered complex of polyunsaturated fatty acids increases.

Health Benefits of Fish Oil:

Salmon oil is one of the greatest sources of DHA available. While studies are still ongoing, research reveals that this omega-3 aids in the repair and maintenance of brain cells. Including this fatty acid in your diet may lower your risk of cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Omega-3 Benefits for Hair:

Many people consume fish or fish oil supplements to promote hair growth and prevent hair loss, suggesting that the omega-3 found in fish oil:

  1. Provides essential proteins and nutrients to hair follicles and skin.
  2. Prevents hair follicle inflammation — a factor that can directly contribute to hair loss.
  3. Promotes circulation in the scalp that may trigger hair growth.

Benefits of Cod Liver Oil:

The benefits of fish oil, particularly cod liver oil, lie in the unique properties of its components: omega-3 PUFAs, including eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids, as well as fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E.

In terms of the content of polyunsaturated fatty acids Omega-3, cod liver oil is superior to that of salmon and other red fish. Omega-3 intake in early childhood cannot be overestimated, as it plays an important role in children’s growth and development.

Cod liver oil is rich in:

  1. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): It reduces the risk of diseases of the nervous system, improves blood composition, helps reduce the level of “bad” cholesterol, strengthens the immune system, and provides antioxidant protection.
  2. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): It is responsible for the formation and functioning of the brain. It supports the protection of brain cells, improves memory, helps transmit nerve impulses, supports fat metabolism, improves blood circulation, and inhibits the growth of atherosclerotic plaques.
  3. Vitamin A: It is a powerful antioxidant that participates in recovery processes, provides health to the skin, hair, and nails, has a beneficial effect on visual functions, and protects against viruses and infections.
  4. Vitamin D: It regulates calcium-phosphorus metabolism, promotes calcium absorption, which helps strengthen bones and teeth, increases immunity, and improves the functioning of the cardiovascular system.
  5. Vitamin E: It protects against the negative effects of free radicals and prevents thrombosis. It prevents oxidation of omega-3 fatty acids.
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