Mounting research drives home the importance of animal-based omega-3 fats for heart health. After reviewing this topic carefully, I am convinced that maintaining a healthy level of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may be one of the most important food priorities.
DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are long-chained omega-3 fats (22 and 20 carbons respectively) found in fatty fish like wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies and certain other sea creatures, including krill. The featured video by AkerBioMarine is part of a campaign to raise awareness about the importance of measuring your omega-3 level. Indeed, along with vitamin D, I believe measuring your omega-3 level is a truly vital health test that should be done on an annual basis.
Like vitamin D, being deficient in omega-3 will leave you vulnerable to all sorts of chronic disease. Optimizing your omega-3 is a truly foundational component of good health. Unfortunately, many still do not even realize such a test exists. It does, but first, let's review why animal-based omega-3 fats are so important for health in the first place.
Plant- Versus Marine-Based Omega-3
Omega-3 fats can be obtained from both marine animal and plant sources, but they are not interchangeable. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an 18-carbon omega-3 fat found in plants like flax and chia seed does readily convert to DHA. Typically, just 1 to 3 percent of ALA is converted to DHA, which is nowhere near the amount you need for brain and heart health. Some studies have found the conversion rate to be as 0.1 to 0.5 percent.1
And, while plant-based omega-3 fats are important for health, the animal-based DHA is the one most strongly associated with heart health and other important health benefits. EPA and DHA are both considered "essential" fats as your body cannot make them, and hence you must get them from your diet. Omega-3 ALA on the other hand is quite ubiquitous in the diet and therefore there is no real need to supplement.