FAQ: Is omega-3 fatty acid production sustainable
Current intakes of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found mainly in fatty fish, are about 100 to 200 mg/day. Achieving recommended higher intakes of 500 mg to 1 g of EPA + DHA daily will be challenging on several fronts. Any increase in consumers’ fish intake is likely to place additional pressures on global fish stocks, many of which are overfished. In addition, concerns about the contamination of fish with methylmercury, dioxins, pesticides and other chemicals have led to federal advisories in both Canada and the United States. Finally, many low-income and middle-class families may not be able to afford to buy fatty fish, the main source of EPA and DHA. Compared with seafood, plant-based sources of the essential omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) are a sustainable, renewable and relatively inexpensive source of essential omega-3 fat. Many consumers may find it easier, more convenient and more environmentally friendly to add a little ground flax or flax oil to the diet than to learn to cook or enjoy the taste of fatty fish.