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Omega-3 fish oils

Fish oils

Fish oils are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids

Marine oils are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, notably eicosapentaenoic acid Fish oils are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids(EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They are extracted from various different oily fish, such as sardines, salmon, mackerel, tuna and herrings, but the fish do not make the oils themselves – they come from their own diet, usually microalgae, or for fish-eating fish, from other fish that eat the microalgae. It is possible to ferment these microalgae in a contained environment, from which a vegetarian algal oil rich in DHA and EPA can be extracted. Numerous health benefits have been claimed for these oils, including improving attention and positive effects on heart health.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the most abundant omega-3 in the brain. It may also have a positive effect on Alzheimer’s disease, and clinical trials are being carried out.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EHA) has several important roles in the body, as it is used to make several important biological molecules such as prostaglandins and leukotrienes which are essential to the healthy functioning of the body. It is also thought to have a positive benefit on mental health.

Vitamin D deficiency a ‘major problem’

A quarter of all toddlers in the UK are lacking Vitamin D, according to new research. A recommendation that all children under five should take Vitamin D supplements, 74 per cent of parents know nothing about the guidelines. And more than half of health professionals are also unaware of them.

Dr Benjamin Jacobs, consultant paediatrician at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, describes the vitamin deficiency issue as a ‘major problem’.

“We see about one case of rickets a month in our hospital, but that’s the very severe end of the disease,” he says. “There are many other children who have less severe problems – muscle weakness, delay in walking, bone pains – and research indicates that in many parts of the country the majority of children have a low level of Vitamin D.”

However, it is not only children who are at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency. Anyone who doesn’t get enough sunshine, possibly because they are unable to go outside, or people whose diet is lacking in Vitamin D, could also be at risk.

Those who don’t go out in the sun are advised to eat plenty of oily fish and take supplements to ensure a sufficient intake of Vitamin D.