Omega-3s are fatty acids essential to human health and play an important role throughout the life cycle.
Why long chain omega-3s?
It is well known that eating fish regularly can help to keep us healthy. Evidence for this has come from studies among populations where fish forms a regular part of the diet. For example the Inuit people (Eskimos) and the Japanese eat more fish than we do in Australia and New Zealand and other western societies. Populations that consume large amounts of fish tend to have a lower incidence of heart disease, cancer and many other chronic diseases.
Fish is beneficial to health as it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), also known as ‘long chain omega-3s’. Another type of long chain omega-3 called docosapentanoic acid (DPA), which is the main omega-3 found in lean red meat, has been less well studied yet the evidence available suggests DPA has similar heart health benefits to EPA and DHA.
Are we consuming enough long chain omega-3s?
Analysis of the Australian National Nutrition Survey (1995), indicated a small proportion of Australian adults consume a lot of fish, yet most people consume very little. A new study from Associate Professor Barbara Meyer, from the University of Wollongong’s School of Health Sciences, reported on average Australian children were consuming just 10% of the long chain omega-3s they needed for heart health and general wellbeing. Levels of long chain omega-3 consumption among Australian children have not improved since intakes were last assessed 13 years ago.
For optimum health Australians and New Zealanders need to increase their intake of oily fish, if this is not possible then long chain omega-3 supplements and foods enriched with long chain omega-3s become an important source of these vital nutrients.