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What are omega 3 fatty acids?

Classification of fatty acids

Fatty acids are the constituants of lipids or fats. They are classified into 2 categories:

  • saturated fatty acids: their role is to store energy in the body. Most of them are synthesized by the organism.
  • unsaturated fatty acids: they have multiple functions in the body: constituants of cellular membranes, precursors of cellular mediators Among unsaturated fatty acids, 2 families are known to be indispensable in dogs and cats:
  • the omega 6 family, that derives from linoleic acid:

    1 2 3 4 5 6
    CH3 CCCC C = CCC =C CCCCC CCCOOH
    (the 1st double-bind is located on the 6th atom of carbon, hence the name of the family, omega 6).

  • the omega 3 family, that derives from alpha-linolenic acid:

    1 2 3
    CH3 CC=CC C = CCC =C CCCCC CCCOOH
    (the 1st double-bind is located on the 3rd atom of carbon, hence the name of the family, omega 3).

The alpha-linolenic acid must be considered as essential, such as linoleic acid. It has to be provided by the diet, because the animal cannot synthesize it itself.

But from this fatty acid, the organism can produce all the other fatty acids of the omega 3 family. Specific enzymes lengthen the initial chain, and add double-binds. Very long-chain and highly unsaturated fatty acids are obtained so, such as:

  • eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) : 20 atoms of carbon, 5 double-binds
  • docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): 22 atoms de carbon, 6 double-binds.

Roles of omega 3 fatty acids
They have numerous interests. Examples :

anti-inflammatory role
Omega 3 fatty acids inhib the synthesis of some mediators of inflammation. They have a positive action towards cutaneous problems, especially from allergic origin, articular pains

diminution of cardio-vascular disease in man
Omega 3 fatty acids dicrease the formation of clots in blood vessels.

improvment of vision
The receptivity of the retina is lowered in case of omega 3 fatty acids deficiency.

improvment of learning ability in young individuals
All the nervous cells contain a large amount of omega 3 fatty acids.

enhancement of sportive ability
Thanks to omega 3 fatty acids, the capacity of red cells to transport oxygen is improved.

stimulation of immunity.

Balance of the formulation
As the transformation of linoleic acid (omega 6), and alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3), depend on the same enzymes, a right balance is to respect. For man and for dogs, it is advised to maintain the ratio omega 6 / omega 3 between 4/1 et 10 /1.

Sources of omega 3 fatty acids
The 2 main sources of omega 3 fatty acids chosen by Royal Canin are:

  • soya oil, whose ration omega 6 / omega 3 is perfectly balanced
  • fish oils, exceptionnally rich in long chain omega 3 fatty acids ((EPA and DHA).

fatty acids (% of dry matter) poultry fat soya oil fish oils alpha-linolnic acid 2,5 8,8 1,3 EPA + DHA 0 0,2 19,1 ratio omega 6/ omega 3 9,1 6,3 0,15

Polyunsaturated fatty acids are very sensitive to oxidation. Their using implies to check carefully the adequate levels of vitamine E and antioxydants.


Donated by the Borg Cardona and Co. Ltd. visit Borg Cardona website



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