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Omega-3 fatty acids are constituents of fats in foods eaten, the term omega and number three point to the chemical structure of the fatty acids having three components (Gerstein, 2018). Omega-3 fatty acids are found in the foods like fish, salmons, sardines and tuna, flaxseeds and fish oils. Omega-3 acids are classified into three groups, Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is mostly found in flaxseeds and other plant sources of Omega-3 while DHA is found in most seafood and also in certain fortified foods such as yoghurt, eggs and milk including infant formulas. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the most common omega-3 fatty acid in the diet of many individuals. ALA originates from plants and is found in vegetable oils, canola, soybean oils, primarily flaxseed, and walnut. ALA is a dietary essential fatty acid; the bodies need ALA but cannot manufacture it and use it to form the functions crucial omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Other sources of Omega-3 such as supplements offer ALA, but it is not well converted to EPA and DHA, and this is further discussed in the paragraphs below.
Preformed EPA and DHA are mandatory for healthy growth and development in the body system; the nervous system and respiratory system and are needful in the early stages of life. Expectant women are advised to consume food sources of Omega-3 for healthy infant growth. Foods that provide Omega-3 are like new kinds of seafood like salmons and fish, nuts such as walnuts and chia seeds and plant oils like Flaxseeds, manufactured foods like juices and infant formulas. Fish oils are supplements of Omega-3 and examples are Algal oil, cod liver oils and krill oils,(Mousa et al., 2012).
Eating fish and other fresh seafood increases the health advantages of individuals by first reducing the occurrence of heart attacks and stroke (Barringer et al., 2017). Fish foods reduce the risk of coronary heart disease whereas this is not the same case for the oil supplements of Omega-3 which are proven not to protect people from major cardiovascular events but reduce the risk created after the heart attacks have occurred, (Bowen, Harris et al.,2016). The Omega-3 supplements did not minimize the risk of cancer as much as the fish foods do according to research but reduce high levels of triglycerides in those suffering from heart diseases.
Studies concerning Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), showed that patients who take Omega-3 supplements do not prevent the disease from getting worse and reducing the loss of vision compared to those who consumed Omega-3 from the fish foods whose condition decreased in severity. However, oil supplements have been proven to lessen the effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis by managing it and lessening joint tenderness experienced by patients and joint stiffness in the morning. Additionally, the consumption of Omega-3 foods reduces the occurrence of Alzheimer's disease, which causes Dementia in the elderly due to a lower amount of DHA (Swanson, 2012). A combination of EPA and DHA protects the elderly from Dementia and enhances infant brain development.
Individuals should consume more fish foods because apart from providing Omega-3, they also contain several minerals, vitamins, and dietary fibre that improve health and reduce various infections which are not present in fish oil supplements. Seafood not only provides EPA and ALA but also have more nutritional benefits. Nonetheless, supplements tend to have controlled amounts of Omega-3 that is clinically proven to be healthy which contrasts with fish foods which offer large quantities of Omega- 3 that may be unhealthy hence causing several complications in the body. Furthermore, some fish species contain very high levels of Omega-3 which, when consumed by pregnant women could harm the unborn children impairing their nervous and immune systems,(Sherratt et al., 2017). Fish oil supplements are taken in 3g quantities per day and excess of this could also cause several complications.
Consumers find it easier to use fish oils such as flax oils and algal oils since some do not like the taste of fish and the hustle to cook it. Algae are the primary producers in the sea ecosystems; therefore, the foundation of the ocean food chain. Algal oils contain high DHA synthesis of about 35% of total fatty acid. However, supplements are nowadays over consumed by many individuals increasing the health risk. Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for visual and cognitive development in children before birth, and throughout their childhood and Infant, formulas are used by many mothers who do not consume seafood. Enriched Infant formulas contain large amounts of DHA, which is vital for the structure, growth and development of the fetal central nervous system and retina,(Mousa et al., 2012).
A study was administered on how fish oils and fish foods could assist in lowering blood pressure. The researchers realized that DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) foods rapidly increase ion flow currents twenty fold times. To establish a contrast, a dietary supplement of DHA, ethyl ester found in most fish oils was used, and it was remarked that the ethyl ester did not activate the ion channels and blocked the vessels from accessing natural sources of DHA. The ethyl ester supplement competes with the natural form of DHA at binding sites. Ion channels have receptors for long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids and DHA, unlike ethyl ester lowers blood pressure and reenergizes ion channels. Natural forms of DHA are therefore more efficient in lowering blood pressure and can reduce the occurrence of heart traumas more than oil supplements can.
Oil supplements have adverse side effects such as constant bad breath, stomach upsets, loose stool or diarrhea, consistent unpleasant taste in the mouth and frequent acid reflux which may discourage many people from using them as Omega-3 sources and resort to fish foods. Taking the supplements in a mixture of foods is recommended to reduce the effects other than ingesting the supplements directly. Consumption of Omega-3 fish oils increases blood sugar levels, and this affects patients who have Diabetes type 2. Large amounts of fish oils when ingested impairs blood clot formation thereby causing bleeding in patients, which is manifested as bleeding gums and regular nose bleeds.
Nonetheless, fish foods are not exempted from the harm they cause on their consumers. Pollution in the seas has become inevitable, making the sea ecosystems unfavourable for fish growth and development. Concerns are raised about environmental dangers facing fish habitats whereby the seas experience a lot of chemical pollution which contaminates the food eaten by the fish and the fish. The consumption of fresh fish is a controversial subject because fish obtained from these environments are bound to transfer infections to those who eat. Sea toxins such as dioxins, Polychlorinated Biphenyls and mercury are harmful to the human body systems, (Harris et al.,2016) which are, however, different from the Oil Supplements. Oil supplements are purified in the labs and free from harmful toxins and bacteria, making them healthier as Omega-3 sources.
The reduction in fish species is a threat to the seafood industries and consumers and may demand the shift to plant oils and sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. The plant sources may offer solutions to vegan individuals who cannot consume any fish products, and these include the flaxseeds, walnuts and chia seeds which provide required amounts of ALA. Studies suggest that children who directly obtain breast milk from vegan mothers exhibit more normal growth with few or no deficits in their brain development compared to those who consume Enriched Infant Formulas and adult vegans also have lower risks for heart disease and cancers. Consumers find it more beneficial to use plant oils such as flax oils since they are more sustainable, renewable and cheaper for use.Omega-3 supplementation has also been proven to be primarily involved in the treatment of psychiatric disorders such as depression, and it reduces the prevalence of post-partum disease using high amounts of fish oils in the treatment because it directly affects brain development and reactions,(Dunsiger, Cohen et al., 2015).
In conclusion, fish oils are the most commonly consumed dietary supplements since they help in obtaining enough Omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oils are also more accessible to individuals since they are sold at almost all pharmaceuticals and recommended by many doctors. However, most research shows that fish foods are healthier and provide other multiple benefits compared to the supplements which only have DHA and ALA as their only constituents. It is difficult to obtain fresh kinds of seafood since most of them take some time before they are processed and transported to the required destinations. Some fish arrive when spoilt, therefore, cannot provide the necessary nutrients. The cooking of seafood is also much hustle to many due to the busy work schedules and lack of time to prepare fish meals. Fish oils are a convenient way of obtaining Omega-3 despite the many side effects experienced, which is not the same for fish foods, which apart from allergic reactions, cannot trigger any unlikely events. Fish foods may be a healthier source of Omega-3, but their access is, and contamination of the sea environments declares them unhealthy. Fish oils are available in the markets, hospitals, pharmaceuticals making them a better option for many individuals.
Siscovick, D. S., Barringer, T. A., Fretts, A. M., Wu, J. H., Lichtenstein, A. H., Costello, R. B., ... & Appel, L. J. (2017). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (fish oil) supplementation and the prevention of clinical cardiovascular disease: a science advisory from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 135(15), e867-e884.
Mason, R. P., & Sherratt, S. C. (2017). Omega-3 fatty acid fish oil dietary supplements contain saturated fats and oxidized lipids that may interfere with their intended biological benefits. Biochemical and biophysical research communications, 483(1), 425-429.
Swanson, D., Block, R., & Mousa, S. A. (2012). Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA: health benefits throughout life. Advances in nutrition, 3(1), 1-7.
Howe, P., Evans, H., Kuszewski, J., & Wong, R. (2018). Effects of Long Chain Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Brain Function in Mildly Hypertensive Older Adults. Nutrients, 10(10), 1413.
Daiello, L. A., Gongvatana, A., Dunsiger, S., Cohen, R. A., Ott, B. R., & Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. (2015). Association of fish oil supplement use with preservation of brain volume and cognitive function. Alzheimer's & Dementia, 11(2), 226-235.
Bowen, K. J., Harris, W. S., & Kris-Etherton, P. M. (2016). Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease: are their benefits?. Current treatment options in cardiovascular medicine, 18(11), 69.
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