Understanding how your body benefits from eating omega-3 fatty acids is an important part of understanding why you should eat them. But, until somewhat recently, no one really knew what made omega-3s so beneficial. Researchers, however, have uncovered the secret of omega-3 fatty acids. A study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston revealed that omega-3s actually convert into compounds that are 10,000 times more potent than the original fatty acids themselves. So what does this mean to us? These compounds include resolvins, which help bring an inflammatory response in the body to an end, says the study’s lead researcher, Charles Serhan, PhD, director, Center for Experimental Therapeutics and Reperfusion Injury at Harvard Medical School, Boston.

In a healthy immune system, the normal inflammatory process repairs damage and protects the body from infections. But in arthritis and inflammatory diseases, an overactive immune response leads to tissue degradation. Serhan’s research showed that the same pathway that signals the start of inflammation also includes an off switch. Omega-3s convert into these more powerful compounds, putting the brakes on this active process and causing it to screech to a halt, says Serhan.

What is not yet known is how much omega-3s are needed to optimize the body’s conversion from omega-3s into resolvins, says Serhan. Both Serhan and the American Dietetic Association (ADA), however, recommend food over supplements to reap omega-3 benefits. The best source: fish. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish per week.