We already know how important omega-3 fatty acids are for pets and humans alike. But do you know what types of omega-3s you can find in pet food? And how are they different and which ones are more beneficial for pets?
To help you make an informed decision about what kind of omega-3s you should look for when choosing the most nutritious pet food, we decided to write this article where we explain what each of them is and how they can make a big difference in a pet’s life.
There are three types of omega-3 ingredients for pet food:
Plant-based omega-3s (also known as ALA) from flaxseed, canola, walnut or soy
Triglyceride omega-3s (also known as EPA and DHA) or marine-based omega-3s that come from fatty fish
Phospholipid omega-3s are also marine-based omega-3s (known as EPA and DHA too) that come from a special type of fatty fish, like krill.
Plant-based omega-3s (from flaxseed)
One common type of omega-3 ingredient in a pet food formula is from plant-based sources, like flaxseed, walnuts, rapeseed or chia seeds. The omega-3s found in them are in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
ALA must be converted by the pets into EPA and DHA (marine-based omega-3s) to have a strong health effect, and this conversion of ALA is naturally insufficient in both dogs and cats.
Due to this, if you choose pet food with plant-based omega-3s, pets won’t get a sufficient amount of omega-3s. Much more beneficial would be a direct source of EPA & DHA from marine ingredients.
Triglyceride omega-3s (from fish oil)
Most of the marine omega-3 sources on the market came in the form of triglycerides. Mostly found in fatty fish and made of three fatty acids (EPA & DHA) attached to a glycerol backbone (source), this type of omega-3 has been a long-term ingredient in pet food.
When pets consume triglyceride omega-3s, their body has to convert them first into phospholipids before they can be taken up by the cell membranes. Triglyceride omega-3s are also more likely to be used as energy or stored as fat. That means that a smaller amount of omega-3s bound to triglycerides will go to the membranes.
Now, omega-3s EPA and DHA can also be provided in the form of phospholipids like the one found in krill and QRILL Pet.
Phospholipid omega-3s (from krill)
Phospholipid omega-3s, such as those found in krill, have two fatty acid tails attached to a glycerol backbone with the third attached to a phosphate group. (source)
Phospholipids are the building blocks of all cell membranes, which actually means they are more efficiently incorporated into the body’s cells, tissues, and organs. This is because phospholipids are important building blocks for cell membranes.
Referred to as the “molecule of life”, phospholipids are natural, integral parts of human and animal cells, helping to maintain the strength, flexibility, and integrity of cells and cell membranes.
In Antarctic krill, omega-3s are mostly in phospholipid form, which makes them a very effective source of omega-3s. For pets, this means that they can take full advantage of the health benefits associated with these essential omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids EPA & DHA from a marine source support the health of several vital organs, including the heart, kidney, liver, joints, brain, eyes, skin, and coat. The right level of EPA & DHA can be achieved only by the inclusion of marine sources in pet food.
What are the results of recent studies?
The difference between phospholipids and triglycerides has been investigated in a 6-week study on 20 Alaskan Huskies. Ten adult dogs of both genders were supplemented with daily 1.7 g EPA and DHA from krill meal, while another ten dogs received 1.7 g EPA and DHA from fish oil.
At the end of the study, there was a 62% increase in the Omega-3 Index in the krill meal group, with the triglyceride fish oil group having only a 21% increase.
These results have shown that phospholipid omega-3s from krill are more effective in raising omega-3 levels in a dog’s body compared to triglyceride omega-3s, like those found in fish oil.