Omega-3 Fatty Acids

What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids which have a double bond (C=C) at the third carbon atom from the end of the carbon chain. It is a group of fatty acids which have the first unsaturated bond in the third position from the omega carbon.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids are believed to prevent insulin resistance, reduce serum triglycerides, prolong bleeding times, improve lipid profile, decrease platelet adhesiveness, and reduce platelet counts.

Table of Contents

Structure of Omega-3 Fatty Acid

The fatty acids have two ends, the carboxylic acid (-COOH) end, which is considered the beginning of the chain, thus “alpha”, and the methyl (CH3) end, which is considered the tail of the chain, thus “omega”.

The chemical names of Omega-3 Fatty Acids are Omega-3, Fatty Acids, N-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid, and Omega-3 Polyunsaturated. The molecular formula of Omega-3 Fatty Acid is C60H92O6 with a molecular weight of 909.39 g/mol.

Types of Omega-3 Fatty Acid

There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids that are involved in human physiology.

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is found in marine oils.
  • α-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in plant oils.
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is found in marine oils.

Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acid

Omega-3 Fatty Acids are often of marine origin. Marine algae and phytoplankton are the primary sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Sources of plant oils that contain omega-3 ALA fatty acids are:

  • Edible seeds
  • Walnut
  • Algal oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Clary sage seed oil
  • Echium oil
  • Sacha Inchi oil
  • Hemp oil

Sources of animal omega-3 EPA and DHA fatty acids are:

  • Egg oil
  • Fish oils
  • Krill oil
  • Squid oils

List of omega-3 fatty acids

The list of different names for the most common omega-3 fatty acids found in nature are mentioned below.

Common name       

Chemical name

Lipid name    

α-Linolenic acid (ALA) all-cis-9,12,15-octadecatrienoic acid 18:3 (n-3)
Hexadecatrienoic acid (HTA) all-cis-7,10,13-hexadecatrienoic acid 16:3 (n-3)
Eicosatrienoic acid (ETE) all-cis-11,14,17-eicosatrienoic acid 20:3 (n-3)
Stearidonic acid (SDA) all-cis-6,9,12,15-octadecatetraenoic acid 18:4 (n-3)
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) all-cis-5,8,11,14,17-eicosapentaenoic acid 20:5 (n-3)
Eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA) all-cis-8,11,14,17-eicosatetraenoic acid 20:4 (n-3)
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) all-cis-4,7,10,13,16,19-docosahexaenoic acid 22:6 (n-3)
Docosapentaenoic acid (DPA),

Clupanodonic acid

all-cis-7,10,13,16,19-docosapentaenoic acid 22:5 (n-3)
Tetracosahexaenoic acid (Nisinic acid) all-cis-6,9,12,15,18,21-tetracosahexaenoic acid 24:6 (n-3)
Tetracosapentaenoic acid all-cis-9,12,15,18,21-tetracosapentaenoic acid 24:5 (n-3)

Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are very important. This acid has all sorts of powerful health benefits for the human body and brain. Some benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids are mentioned below.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids can fight depression and anxiety.
  • It improves eye health.
  • The fatty acid promotes brain health during pregnancy.
  • It improves risk factors for heart disease.
  • It can reduce symptoms of metabolic syndrome.
  • Omega-3s can fight inflammation and fight autoimmune diseases.
  • It helps to improve mental disorders.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids can fight age-related mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • It can reduce asthma in children.
  • Omega-3s helps to reduce fat in the liver.

To know more about the properties and benefits of fatty acids stay tuned with BYJU’S.


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