Someone asked me about Omega 3 intake after knowing that I am a full time vegetarian.
A search in the internet found the following information.
1. Omega 3 is the name of a type of fat that is found in oil-rich fish and some plant oils and is also known as ‘n-3‘.
2. They are from the family of ‘good’ fats - polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that are not only beneficial for health but are essential in the diet.
3. Fatty acids are the building blocks of fats and there are many different types of fatty acids, some of which can be made by the body, and some which cannot. The so-called essential fatty acids are vital substances that the body must have to maintain optimal health, yet they cannot be made by the body, so a dietary supply is essential.
4. Omega 3 fatty acids are one of two families of essential fatty acids, and they are derived from the parent of this family: ALA (alpha linolenic acid). The most effective omega 3’s are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Although the body is able to convert ALA to EPA and DHA, the way it does this is inadequate, which is why oil-rich fish are such an important food, as they contain the omega 3’s already in long-chain form omega 3.
5. DHA and EPA are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and are also referred to as: LC omega 3 PUFAs. Oil-rich fish are the only nutritionally significant source of long-chain omega 3 fatty acids. The other ’family’ of essential fatty acids is the omega 6 group, found in plant oils and some animal fats.
6. Long-chain omega 3 fatty acids are needed for normal growth and development in the body, and are also required to maintain cardiovascular health and brain function. Therefore, everybody should be aiming to consume enough regularly to prevent deficiencies and to be healthy.
7. Since omega 3 essential fatty acids are needed for the membranes of all body cells their role in health is wide reaching: encompassing not only healthy heart and brain function but also playing an important role in the normal function of the eyes, the nervous system, the kidney, and the liver, in fact all body systems. Other functions also include the contraction of muscles and the dilation/constriction of blood vessels, blood clotting, and inflammatory processes.
8. Only consuming plant sources of essential fatty acids (i.e. ALA) means that the conversion process to the longer chain fats, DHA and EPA, will not be efficient therefore possibly requiring an additional source of omega 3 to maintain optimum intakes.
9. It is oil-rich fish that are a great source of long-chain omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. The main oil-rich fish available in the UK are: salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, pilchards, herring, kipper, eel and whitebait, fresh, frozen or tinned. Tuna is only counted as an oily fish if it is fresh or frozen, as the tinned variety does have some oils, but not as much as the fresh one.
10. Area where Omega 3 may promote health and wellbeing: heart health: lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes and protection; against heartbeat abnormalities; brain function: optimal brain and eye development in babies, especially in premature babies, attention deficit disorder, Alzheimer’s disease and depression; rheumatoid arthritis; inflammatory skin disorders; inflammatory bowel diseases.
My view: Yes, we respect the view that Omega 3 is important in health care. It does not mean that a vegetarian has to take oil-rich fish to derive Omega 3. I have been a vegetarian for the last 15 years. I maintain a good health condition through a holistic approach: body (diet), mind and spiritual aspects.