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In addition to their structural role in cell membranes, omega-3s (along with omega-6s) provide energy for the body and are used to form eicosanoids.

Eicosanoids are signaling molecules that have similar chemical structures to the fatty acids from which they are derived; they have wide-ranging functions in the body's cardiovascular, pulmonary, immune, and endocrine systems [1,2].

Most agree that raising EPA and DHA blood levels is far more important than lowering linoleic acid or arachidonic acid levels.

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Experts have not established normal ranges, but mean values for serum or plasma phospholipid EPA plus DHA among U. adults not taking omega-3 supplements are about 3%–4% [14-16].

Plasma and serum fatty acid values, however, can vary substantially based on an individual's most recent meal, so they do not reflect long-term dietary consumption [3,17].

Omega-6 fatty acids (omega-6s) have a carbon–carbon double bond that is six carbons away from the methyl end of the fatty acid chain.

Linoleic acid (C18:2n-6) and arachidonic acid (C20:4n-6) are two of the major omega-6s.

Similarly, EPA and DHA can compete with arachidonic acid for the synthesis of eicosanoids.

Thus, higher concentrations of EPA and DHA than arachidonic acid tip the eicosanoid balance toward less inflammatory activity [9].

ALA can be converted into EPA and then to DHA, but the conversion (which occurs primarily in the liver) is very limited, with reported rates of less than 15% [3].

Therefore, consuming EPA and DHA directly from foods and/or dietary supplements is the only practical way to increase levels of these fatty acids in the body.

It is also possible to assess omega-3 status via analysis of erythrocyte fatty acids, a measurement that reflects longer-term intakes over approximately the previous 120 days [18,19].

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