Fishing for more essential omega-3s
Just one in five Australians is getting enough omega-3 fatty acids for good health, according to a recent study.
Published in Nutrition, the 2016 study by the University of Wollongong found only 20 per cent of Australians were consuming the recommended daily intake of omega-3s.[i]
Only 10 per cent of women of childbearing age were obtaining the recommended daily intake, according to the study.
What is omega-3?
Omega-3 is an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) found in some seafood, plants and small amounts in eggs and meat. It’s “essential" because our bodies don’t produce it so we must source it from foods or supplements.
There are different types of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids
- Marine-sourced omega-3s: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are found in oily fish, such as salmon, blue-eye trevalla, blue mackerel, herring, canned sardines, canned salmon and some varieties of canned tuna. Other fish such as barramundi, bream or flathead, and seafood such as arrow squid, scallops, and mussels, are also good sources of omega-3.
- Plant-sourced omega-3s: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found mainly in plant-based fats such as linseeds (flaxseeds), chia seeds, and walnuts.
Why we need it?
We need omega-3s for brain growth and development, mood and behavioural function. It also helps stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism and maintain the reproductive system.
A 2015 research review[ii], published in Lung & Circulation, found positive evidence for the role of omega-3s in the treatment of hypertriglyceridaemia (high cholesterol) and a modest positive benefit in heart failure.
Other benefits include:
- Mood - studies have found that people who consume omega-3s regularly are less likely to be depressed. [iii][iv] [v]
- Brain development - A study published in Plos One[vi] linked low levels of DHA with poorer reading, and memory and behavioural problems in healthy school-age children.
- Inflammation – A UK study found there was strong evidence that omega-3s are beneficial as a dietary supplement in certain diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.[vii]
How much do we need?
Unfortunately, most Australians only get 160mg of omega-3s per day, however according to the National Heart Foundation of Australia we need up to 500mg. [viii]
For people with coronary heart disease, the Heart Foundation suggests 1000mg per day.
The Heart Foundation recommends all Australians should aim to include 2–3 serves of fish (including oily fish) per week as part of a heart-healthy diet. For example, a can of salmon in water, can of tuna in water and a serve of fresh, silver perch.
Marine-sourced omega-3 supplements are available for people who do not eat fish or aren’t eating it frequently enough.
Speak to your health professional about the right diet, lifestyle, testing and potential supplements that might be right for you.
References available on request