Eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid are long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found to have great benefit for health, lowering cholesterol and decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, chia seeds, and other plant-based sources, do not contain EPA or DHA. Chia seeds contain the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-lipoic acid that your body can convert to EPA and DHA.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients; Your body requires them to function. Omega-3's are polyunsaturated fatty acids important for brain function, growth and development. Your body also uses omega-3 fatty acids to produce eicosanoids that reduce inflammation, your body's response to disease and injury. The U.S. Institute of Medicine recommends that adult men consume 1.6 g of omega-3 fatty acids per day; The recommendation for women is 1.1 g per day.
ALA Makes EPA and DHA
Many research studies showing benefits of omega-3 fatty acids used fish oil containing EPA and DHA, not ALA, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Your body converts ALA to both EPA and DHA, although the efficiency varies from person to person. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, 8 to 21 percent of ALA is converted to EPA and 0 to 8 percent is converted to DHA. Women are more efficient at the conversion than men. Though omega-3 and other nutrients from chia seeds are clearly beneficial, those taking chia seeds purely for omega-3 fatty acids should look for a complementary source.
Omega-3 fatty acids can lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Diseases involving inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, may be reduced in severity by increasing omega-3 intake. Neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, may also be improved by omega-3 supplementation.
Other Chia Seed Nutrients
Chia seeds contain both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, with 50 to 60 percent being the omega-3 fatty acid ALA. Chia seeds also contain significant amounts of fiber and complete protein. As all of these nutrients are important to health, with omega-3 and fiber lacking in the modern diet, chia seeds are still a healthy food, even if they do not contain EPA or DHA.