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Omega−3 fatty acid

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noun, plural: omega-3 fatty acids

A type of polyunsaturated fatty acid in which the first double bond is between carbon 3 and carbon 4 from the tail end (omega) of the hydrocarbon chain


A fatty acid is a long chain of hydrocarbon with a carboxylic acid at the beginning (called alpha) and a methyl tail (called omega). One of the ways by which a fatty acid is named is by counting, starting from the tail (omega, ω-) or the n-end. Thus, the name, omega-3 fatty acid, is one in which the first double bond is located between the third carbon and the fourth carbon of the hydrocarbon chain.

The omega-3 fatty acid is a polyunsaturated type. A polyunsaturated fatty acid is a type of unsaturated fatty acid with multiple double bonds. In humans, α-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the three most notable omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3 fatty acid is an essential fatty acid. This means, humans are not capable of producing this fatty acid due to a lack of desaturase enzyme that inserts double bonds between carbon atoms 3 and 4, and therefore must include it in the diet.

Also called:

  • n−3 fatty acid
  • ω−3 fatty acid

See also: