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Understanding omega 3 deficiency: bridging the nutritional gap

Published Sep 29, 2023 | Updated Feb 8, 2024
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In the realm of modern nutrition, the pursuit of optimal health is linked to understanding and addressing nutrient deficiencies. Omega 3 fats, especially DHA or docosahexaenoic acid which is a well-known omega 3 compound, play a pivotal role in brain function. As the evidence that brings awareness of their benefits increases, omega 3 deficiency remains a concern that can compromise your vitality. This article demonstrates how common deficiency in DHA is, shedding light on its causes, and ways to bridge this nutritional gap.


Change your diet, change your mind

The evolution of dietary habits over the years has led to a shift away from omega 3-rich foods. Omega 3 fats are prominently found in cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Today, the modern Western diet often includes less of these nutrient-dense options than advisable. An overview on fish oil and omega 3 fats highlights the decline in fish consumption and the resulting imbalance in omega 3 intake, emphasising the need for dietary adjustments to combat deficiency[1]. Years later, a review of data backs the claim, providing evidence that omega 3 levels are low for most people on a global scale[2]. An analysis of the USA population also showed that 68% of adults and 95% of children are deficient in omega 3, while another study found that only 25% of British people eat the daily recommended amount of oily fish[3,4]. A DHA supplement might be an ideal solution that helps you get the omega 3 you need. brain feed has developed a 500 mg vegan DHA softgel capsule that helps you reach the recommended daily intake. 



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Say hello to “good” omega 3 and wave goodbye to “bad” omega 6

The ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids in the diet plays a crucial role in maintaining health. While omega 6 fatty acids are essential, an excessive intake compared to omega 3s can disrupt the delicate balance and contribute to inflammation. An overview of the human diet underscores the importance of achieving an optimal ratio between the “good” and the “bad” fats[5]. Authors concluded that people should increase omega 3 consumption to alleviate the adverse effects of omega 6 dominance and low omega 3 symptoms like inflammatory diseases that are linked to cognitive impairment[5,6].


Omega 3: helping you take care of your brain

Omega 3 fats, especially DHA, are integral to numerous physiological processes. Their deficiency can lead to a cascade of effects, impacting brain function and inflammation regulation, to name a few. A review of global data on the intake of omega 3 emphasises how DHA has been associated with decreased risk of cognitive decline[2]. A study on 11 young adults concluded that all the participants reached a better cognitive performance after supplementing with DHA for 30 days[7].

Mothers, eat your omega 3

Omega 3 fatty acids are crucial during pregnancy and early childhood development. They play a role in fetal brain and eye development and can influence cognitive function later in life[8,9]. An overview of study results that showcase omega 3 deficiency stresses the significance of addressing signs of low omega 3 and omega 3 deficiency in expectant and breastfeeding mothers for the well-being of both mother and child as newborns, infants and children are most likely to experience omega 3 deficiency[10].

Supplementing: bridging the gap in your health

For those individuals who eat fewer foods rich in omega 3s, supplementation emerges as a practical solution. Omega 3 supplements, particularly those rich in DHA, offer a convenient way to bridge the nutritional gap. So, how to increase omega 3? You can get DHA by eating enough cold-water oily fish such as salmon or sardines. Let’s take a look at how much omega 3 a day do you need. The recommended daily intake of DHA for adults is 500 mg per day if you want to observe the benefits[11]. To paint the picture, in 100g of cooked wild Atlantic salmon, there are about 1.4 grams of DHA[12]. 



The journey toward optimal health demands a holistic approach to nutrition, with omega 3 fatty acids playing a pivotal role in this narrative. The implications of omega 3 deficiency are far-reaching. The modern diet that has shifted away from omega 3-rich foods, along with the imbalanced omega 6 to omega 3 ratio, underscores the urgency of addressing this nutritional gap. From maternal and child health to adult well-being, the impact of omega 3s resonates across the lifespan.

By embracing omega 3-rich foods, considering supplementation when necessary, and making conscious dietary choices, you can empower yourself to optimize your omega 3 intake and, subsequently, your health. As science continues to illuminate the intricate relationship between omega 3s and well-being, the journey toward vibrant health is enriched by our understanding and appreciation of these essential fats.

 

References

[1] Kris-Etherton, P. M., Harris, W. S., & Appel, L. J. (2002). Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Cardiovascular Disease. Circulation, 106(21), 2747–2757. 

[2] Stark, K. D., Van Elswyk, M. E., Higgins, M. R., Weatherford, C. A., & Salem, N. (2016). Global survey of the omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid in the blood stream of healthy adults. Progress in Lipid Research, 63, 132–152. 

[3] Murphy, R. A., Devarshi, P. P., Ekimura, S., Marshall, K., & Hazels Mitmesser, S. (2021). Long-chain omega-3 fatty acid serum concentrations across life stages in the USA: An analysis of NHANES 2011–2012. BMJ Open, 11(5), e043301. 

[4] Derbyshire, E. (2019). Oily Fish and Omega-3s Across the Life Stages: A Focus on Intakes and Future Directions. Frontiers in Nutrition, 6, 165. 

[5] Simopoulos, A.P. (2016). Evolutionary Aspects of the Dietary Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio: Medical Implications. In A. Alvergne, C. Jenkinson & C. Faurie (Eds.), Evolutionary Thinking in Medicine. Advances in the Evolutionary Analysis of Human Behaviour. Springer.

[6] Kidd, P. M. (2007). Omega-3 DHA and EPA for Cognition, Behavior, and Mood: Clinical Findings and Structural-Functional Synergies with Cell Membrane Phospholipids. Alternative Medicine Review, 12(3), 207–227.

[7] Bauer, I., Hughes, M., Rowsell, R., Cockerell, R., Pipingas, A., Crewther, S., & Crewther, D. (2014). Omega-3 supplementation improves cognition and modifies brain activation in young adults. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 29(2), 133–144. 

[8] EFSA (2009). Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies on a request from Merck Selbstmedikation GmbH on DHA and support of the cognitive development of the unborn child and breastfed infant. The EFSA Journal, 1007, 1–14.

[9] EFSA (2009). Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies on a request from Merck Selbstmedikation GmbH on DHA and support of the visual development of the unborn child and breastfed infant. The EFSA Journal, 1006, 1–12.

[10] Sinclair, A. J., Wang, Y., & Li, D. (2022). What Is the Evidence for Dietary-Induced DHA Deficiency in Human Brains? Nutrients, 15(1), 161.

[11] Rafati, P., Hameed, M., Huang, X., & Isyaku, K. L. (2020). Review: The effect of DHA supplementation on the human health [Final Report]. University of Salford Manchester.

[12] 200 Foods Highest in Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) (n.d.). My Food Data. https://tools.myfooddata.com/nutrient-ranking-tool/DHA/All/Highest/100g/Common/No

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