Omega-3 is one of the most foundational nutrients in your body and can be found in cell membranes. When consumed through diet or supplementation, these nutrients can start to absorb into your bloodstream within just a few hours, but they can stay in your system for much longer. Varying sources of omega-3 can also interact with your body differently.
Omega-3 nutrients are very effective in supporting many bodily systems, like the heart, brain, joints, and eyes. By keeping in mind how omega-3 works and what the best sources are, you can stay a step ahead in maintaining healthy levels of this nutrient.
What Is Omega-3?
Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fats that support the development of cells in our body and promote multiple health benefits. These polyunsaturated fats have an important role in several bodily systems and are an essential part of our diet or supplement intake. The three most common omega-3 fatty acids are:
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Omega-3 precursor, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
All three of these fatty acids should be a part of your daily diet. Of the above omega-3s, ALA is the only essential fatty acid, meaning that it cannot be made by the body and must be obtained through one’s diet. Fortunately, ALA is the most abundant form of omega-3s since it exists in many foods, including nuts, seeds, and oils. As a result, ALA does not require supplementation.
The other two forms of omega-3, DHA and EPA, are considered non-essential since the body can produce them on its own. The body converts ALA into EPA and then converts the EPA into DHA. However, the body can only convert a small percentage of ALA into EPA and DHA. Because the body can only create small amounts of these two important nutrients, you should prioritize incorporating your omega-3 fatty acids into your daily nutrient intake either through diet or supplementation.
What Are the Main Sources of Omega-3?
A variety of foods contain either ALA or DHA or EPA. ALA is the most abundant form of omega-3 in a standard diet. Some of the best sources of ALA are:
- Chia seeds
- Olive oil
Although these sources are rich in ALA, none contain DHA or EPA, which are important to receive through your diet. Most sources of EPA and DHA are seafood. Some of the best sources of these two fatty acids are:
There are very few plant-based sources of DHA and EPA omega-3s, but algae is a great option for those on a plant-based diet because they are rich in both nutrients.
Altogether, regardless of the source, experts recommend that adults obtain 1.1 g of omega-3s daily for women and 1.6 g for men. You may benefit from additional support if you find it hard to obtain this recommended amount through the above sources alone.
How Long Does Omega-3 Stay in Your System?
Once taken in through food or supplement, omega-3s enter your bloodstream within about 4 hours. After 24 hours, the nutrients penetrate red blood cell membranes to be carried to parts of the body where they are needed most.
Omega-3s and omega-6s are incorporated in cell membranes and can last inside these cells for quite some time. Omega-3s stay in your system anywhere from about six weeks to six months. The amount of omega-3s that stay in your system also depends on the amount you receive through diet or supplementation.
If your body is in strong need of omega-3s, it will use the nutrients more quickly, and fewer fatty acids will remain in the body. However, if you maintain a consistent intake of omega-3 fatty acids, your body will be able to replace the omega-3s used for everyday functions. Your levels of omega-3 nutrients in the body will also depend on how much your body can convert from ALA sources.
Therefore, it is important to keep a steady diet or supplement routine that includes an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids so that your body is never running in a deficit and using more of the nutrients than it is taking in.
Another key factor that affects the omega-3 in your system is the bioavailability and absorption rates of the nutrients in the foods you consume. For example, omega-3s from algae can take different amounts of time to start to work, be carried through the body, and leave the body compared to omega-3s from fish oil. Omega-3s that come from algae are absorbed at least 1.7X more efficiently than omega-3s from fish, which means that the same amount of omega-3s would be absorbed more quickly and enter the bloodstream sooner.
Altogether, the amount of time that omega-3 stays in your system can vary widely. Regardless, it is a good idea to maintain a daily intake of omega-3s to constantly replenish the nutrients in your body as they are used to support your body’s everyday functions.
Is Omega-3 Effective?
The short answer to this is yes, omega-3 has been shown to be effective in supporting several bodily processes. A steady intake of omega-3s can have a strong impact throughout the body. Although ALA is found abundantly in many foods and is important for the body, most of the positive health effects of omega-3 fatty acids come from EPA and DHA.
With the help of consistent dietary intake of omega-3s or the use of a supplement, omega-3s can start to build up in the body relatively quickly. However, it may still take some time for the fatty acids to start providing their full benefits. It can take anywhere from six weeks to six months for the nutrients to build to the point where they will start to influence your mood or other bodily functions.
Once the body obtains a sufficient amount of omega-3s, you may start to see several benefits. Omega-3s are considered effective for supporting the health of your heart, brain, joints, and eyes.
Omega-3 fatty acids are relatively well-known for their ability to support heart health. Omega-3s promote heart health in multiple ways. A regular intake of all three fatty acids can support healthy levels of cholesterol. At the same time, a diet rich in omega-3s can support healthy blood pressure. EPA serves a regulatory role in the body and helps systems maintain consistent, healthy operating procedures.
A steady intake of omega-3s, specifically EPA and DHA, can support your brain function. These fatty acids can support both cognitive function and mental wellness. DHA and EPA can maintain proper cognitive functioning, including factors like motor skills and memory. EPA has also been known to support a positive mood and overall emotional wellness.
Because of its important role in brain health, DHA is also an important nutrient to include in your diet during pregnancy, as it works to support healthy brain development and overall fetal growth in children before birth.
Although omega-3s are not said to cure any condition, they can help support the health of the joints by soothing any tightness or tension. As a result, omega-3 fatty acids are great for promoting improved mobility and can provide some relief for individuals even as they age.
DHA is one of the many fats that can be found in the eye. Including DHA into your diet on a regular basis provides additional support to the eye and helps maintain healthy eye function, supporting both one’s vision and the physical health of the eye. Again, DHA is an effective nutrient during pregnancy because it can promote the healthy development of the child’s eyes.
If you feel that you do not see the benefits of omega-3s in your daily routine, it is possible you are still not receiving large enough amounts of DHA and EPA in your diet. Fortunately, there is a proper solution for not receiving enough of these crucial nutrients.
Support Your Body with Omega-3s
Omega-3s are highly-effective nutrients that support the healthy function of many processes throughout the body, and it is only right that you provide your body with the nutrients it needs.
Omega-3s can last in the body for a considerable amount of time, but if you do not maintain a consistent intake of the vital nutrients, then the omega-3 levels in your body may start to decrease, reducing the number of benefits you may see. However, with iwi life’s omega-3 supplement, it is easy to maintain a healthy, daily dosage of omega-3s and other beneficial nutrients, like omega-6s, omega-7s, and omega-9s.
At iwi life, our goal is to provide easy access to vital nutrients through effective but sustainable supplements. The incredible natural benefits of algae power our omega-3 supplement. Algae is the best plant-based source of EPA and DHA omega-3s, providing a source that is both easily absorbable by the body and good for the environment. At iwi life, we are proud to produce a wide range of all-natural, algae-based supplements that support your overall health and well-being. Explore iwi life’s complete family of products to see the full potential of plants.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids - Health Professional Fact Sheet | National Institutes of Health
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Some FAQs | University of Wisconsin School of Medicine