Can you name the 3 Omega’s? Part 1 – ALA

The term Omega-3 fatty acids are describing 3 fats: ALA, EPA & DHA.  Omega-3s are considered essential fatty acids, meaning that they cannot be synthesized by the human body – except for a limited ability by mammals.  Omega-3 fatty acids are all polyunsaturated fatty acids – today we are going to talk about the most common omega, ALA.

ALA, or alpha-Linolenic acid, is an organic compound found most commonly in seeds, nuts, and many vegetable oils.  ALA is a member of the group of essential fatty acids (EFAs) so it must be consumed in our diets.


Dietary Sources:

Common name

Alternate name

Linnaean name



Chia chia sage Salvia hispanica 64% [10]
Kiwifruit seeds Chinese gooseberry Actinidia chinensis 62% [10]
Perilla shiso Perilla frutescens 58% [10]
Flax linseed Linum usitatissimum 55% [10]
Lingonberry cowberry Vaccinium vitis-idaea 49% [10]
Camelina camelina Camelina sativa 35-45%
Purslane portulaca Portulaca oleracea 35% [10]
Sea buckthorn seaberry Hippophae rhamnoides L. 32% [11]
Hemp cannabis Cannabis sativa 20% [10]
Rapeseed canola Brassica napus 10% [2]
Soybean soya Glycine max 8% [2]



Health Benefits

Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to provide a wide range of health benefits, including a lower risk of coronary heart disease and improvement in cholesterol. There have also been promising results from studies looking at omega-3 for cancer, depression, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

A 2005 study found that daily administration of α-linolenic acid significantly reduced self-reported anxiety, stress levels, and objective measured cortisol levels in college age students.   Alpha-linolenic acid is also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA), multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus, diabetes, renal disease, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.   Other uses include treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), migraine headache, skin cancer, depression, and allergic and inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.


ALA is the most common of the 3 omega’s but is still an essential fatty acid. It is often consumed heavily in the ‘typical American diet’.  Supplements exist that can give you specifically ALA, but it would be more helpful to take a supplement that includes all 3 omegas, such as phytoplankton.


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Yehuda S., Rabinovitz S., Mostofsky D.I. (2005). “Mixture of essential fatty acids lowers test anxiety”. Nutritional Neuroscience 8 (4): 265–267. doi:10.1080/10284150500445795. PMID 16491653.

Beare-Rogers (2001). “IUPAC Lexicon of Lipid Nutrition” (pdf). Archived from the original on 12 February 2006. Retrieved 22 February 2006.


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