Omega-3 comes in several different forms, including both animal and plant-based sources. As each one has a slightly different structure, omega-3 will be broken down differently in the body depending on the source.
The three main types of omega-3 utilised by the human body include EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). Both EPA and DHA have been found to support the body in a number of ways including contributing to joint, heart and eye health. Furthermore, DHA has been highlighted for its role in foetal and infant brain development, while ALA may support the maintenance of healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Nuts and seeds, especially walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds are rich in ALA, while algae such as spirulina and chlorella contain EPA and DHA.
Although our bodies convert ALA naturally, the process isn’t very efficient. Various studies suggest that most people convert less than 10-20% of the ALA they eat into EPA or DHA. Consuming too much omega-6 from vegetable oils or having deficiencies in certain nutrients such as zinc, can also hinder the conversion process.