Omega 3 fatty acids are essential nutrients with a wide range of health benefits. The three major Omega 3′s are ALA, EPA and DHA, with each Omega 3 having unique properties.
ALA is the omega 3 found in vegetarian sources such as flaxseed. It is the basic omega 3 which the human body can convert to the longer omega 3′s EPA and DHA. ALA has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and benefit skin health.
EPA and DHA are long chain omega 3′s which are not found in vegetarian foods. EPA plays a very important role in controlling inflammation and has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. DHA is a major component of the brain and the retina of the eye. It has also been shown to improve cholesterol status, decrease the risk of heart disease, play an important role in the development of the infant brain and also help with psychiatric conditions.
While ALA can be converted to EPA and DHA, the conversion is very inefficient. For every 100 mg of ALA, less than 10 mg of DHA is formed. Vegetarians can supplement their diet with an algae derived DHA supplement.