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Omega-3 Competition: Fish Oil vs. Flaxseed Oil

We've all heard about how omega-3s are so important for our health. These fats have anti-inflammatory and mood stabilizing properties, and they have been found to reduce the risk of heart attacks, stroke, and can lower cholesterol.

They can be found in fish (mostly oily, cold water fish like salmon, tuna, herring, and sardines), flaxseeds, omega-3 enhanced foods, walnuts, and lamb. Since many people are a little concerned about the mercury levels in fish, taking fish oil capsules is an option. Another popular option is flaxseed oil. In the omega-3 competition which oil is the victor? To find out


For starters there are three kinds of omega-3s relevant to the question. They are:

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): Necessary for physical and mental health. Found primarily in fish and fish oil.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): Especially important to your body and necessary for various bodily functions involving your brain, blood vessels, and immune system. They are also found in shellfish, fish, fish oil, and enhanced foods (like baby formula).

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): This is the only omega-3 found in plants like flaxseeds, canola, soy, hemp seed, English walnuts, and enhanced foods. When you consume ALA, your body converts it into EPA and then eventually into DHA.

Pregnant women and infants need DHA for proper brain and nervous system development, since their bodies can't usually get enough of it from foods that contain ALA. Adults can benefit from all three omega-3s since they each have heart-protecting properties. It's uncertain though whether ALA has as many health benefits as the other two, since the benefits of EPA and DHA have been studied more. It also isn't known if the health benefits of flaxseed oil come from the ALA, or from the two omega-3s (EPA and DHA) derived from it. So for now, it would seem that fish oil capsules are better sources of omega-3s. If you like flaxseed oil, I wouldn't give up on it, but you might consider fish oil too.

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