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Omega 3’s / Fish Oil

Omega 3’s / Fish Oil

 

Essential Fatty Acids – The Omega-3: Omega-6 Ratio and Inflammation

Essential Fatty Acids are “essential” because our bodies cannot manufacture them and we must get them from foods or through dietary supplements.

The “Typical American Diet” has an imbalance of essential fatty acids — too much Omega-6’s and too little Omega-3’s, of which fish is one of our main sources.

Every cell in your body is affected by this ratio. Essential fatty acids are structural components of every cell membrane in your body!

Many health experts believe that the very high ratio of Omega 6’s to Omega 3’s, promotes inflammation.

Inflammation is thought to be an important root of many chronic degenerative diseases like arthritis, inflamed joints, diabetes, heart disease, even obesity and Alzheimers.

What’s the Typical American or Western Diet?

The standard American diet is:

High in foods rich in Omega-6’s:
corn, soy, sunflower and safflower oils, processed foods made with these vegetable oils
animals (beef, pork, chicken) raised on corn and soy feeds, including their milk products or eggs.

Low in foods rich in  Omega-3’s:
wild fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

About 100 years ago, Westernized diets starting changing when processes were developed to refine vegetable and seed oils that are rich in Omega-6’s.

The more recent introduction of using grains rich in Omega-6’s (corn, soy) to feed farm-raised animals (and even farmed fish) has even more dramatically compounded this change.

It’s estimated that before the industrial revolution,
the Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio in the diet was 1:1 or 1:2.

Today, Westernized diets are estimated to have
an Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio of 1:20  or 1:30.

That’s a fifteen to twenty-fold increase in the proportion of Omega-6’s.

This imbalance which has transpired in such a short time of human history, may be causing a relative deficiency of Omega-3’s.

omega 3 fatty acid foods

A Mediterranean Diet is high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

3 Ways to Get your Omega’s back into balance:

  1. Reduce your intake of foods high in Omega-6 fatty acids
  2. Increase your intake of foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids
  3. Consider complementing your dietary changes with a nutrition supplement rich in Omega-3’s
    • Eat more fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and low fat dairy.
    • Eat less red meat, pork, chicken, eggs, and high fat dairy.
    • Look for meat or dairy products that are pasture raised or grass fed.
      (Grass is high is Omega-3’s; Corn or Soy feed is high in Omega-6’s.)
    • Eat wild fish vs. farm raised fish whenever possible.
      (It’s related to the diet that the fish eat.)
    • When using vegetable oils use olive oil and limit corn, soy, safflower, and sunflower oils, or most vegetable oil blends.
    • Eat other foods high in Omega-3’s such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts.
    • Take a high quality dietary supplement with Omega-3’s every day.
    • For women who may be getting pregnant, are pregnant or are nursing, Omega-3 fatty acid dietary supplements from fish may be a healthier source than fresh fish, which may have environmental toxins including mercury.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Are Critical to Good Health

In addition to reducing inflammation, Omega-3’s support the heart, brain, neurological system, eyes, skin, immune system and may even be related to mood disorders.

Omega-3 fatty acids support heart health and may prevent sudden cardiac arrest and stroke

Studies have shown Omega 3’s  may improve heart rate and rhythm, reduce blood triglyceride and cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, promote vasodilation and arterial elasticity, reduce inflammation of the heart and blood vessels and help prevent artery-blocking clots and platelet aggregation.

Omega-3 ‘s are critical for proper neurological and brain development

In utero, in infants and in children, Omega-3’s may be important to learning. For the elderly, they may help with memory and maintaining cognitive functioning.

Omega-3’s are important for eye and skin health and for your immune system

Research suggests that Omega-3’s may help prevent macular degeneration (and resulting loss of vision), common in aging.

Omega-3 deficiencies may be associated with depression and other mood disorders, ADHD and impulsive behavior and dementia

It is hypothesized that the mechanism may have to do with the composition of cell membranes, neurotransmission and prostaglandin formation.

Selecting a Dietary Supplement of Omega-3’s For Everyday Living

These are important considerations in selecting an Omega-3 supplement:

  • Purity – The supplement must be tested for contamination by environmental toxins such as heavy metals, PCBs, pesticides, and dioxins. These can be concentrated in the tissues of fish.
  • Freshness – The supplement must be fresh and taste fresh (if you are taking the oil by the spoonful). Liquid fish oil has the potential to become rancid due to oxidative damage. You might be able to taste the rancidity and may experience a fish aftertaste after burping. Oils exposed to light heat or oxygen are subject to oxidation from attack by free radicals.
  • Potency – The supplement manufacturer must measure and guarantee the potency of its products.
  • Third Party Testing – The best guarantee of quality, potency and purity, is when the product is tested by an independent third party lab. The product should surpass the international standards for contaminants such as mercury, lead, PCBs and dioxins.
  • Fish Source and Sustainability – When it comes to essential fatty acid supplementation with fish-based products, it’s important to consider the sustainability practices of the manufacturer. I also prefer wild caught or wild farmed fish, which feed on the natural food supply of the ocean.
  • Amounts of Each Omega-3 – In particular, check out the amounts of EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid). (See below for American Heart Association recommendations and details about the properties of different essential fatty acids.)
  • Manufacturing Process – Look for a supplement that uses an oxygen-free, low or no heat, and solvent-free (like hexane) Omega-3 extraction process.  This minimizes oxidation and maximizes purity.

Selecting an Oil or Caplet Form of Omega-3’s

Omega fatty acids can be successfully “delivered” in a dry caplet form (bound to phospholipids) or in liquid oil or oil gel capsule (bound to triglycerides as fish oil).

Some fish oil gels also contain blends of other healthful oils like borage or primrose oil (GLA’s). Others may include Oleic acid (an Omega-9 fatty acid that supports blood vessels and cell membranes).

What are the Recommendations for Omega-3’s?

It’s always best to consult with your physician regarding taking an Omega-3 dietary supplement.

That said, many health organizations recommend around 500 mg of EPA+DHA (combined) per day.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids to decrease the risk factors associated with heart disease, such as hypertension, high triglycerides and atherosclerosis.

  • The AHA recommends that adults eat at least two servings of fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids per week, plus flaxseed, canola and soybean oils, flaxseeds and walnuts.
  • For people with heart disease, the AHA  recommends 1 gram (1000 mg) of EPA+DHA  daily from fish and dietary supplements, as recommended by their physician.
  • For people with elevated triglycerides, the AHA recommends 2-4 grams (2,000 – 4,000 mg) of EPA+DHA each day from fish and dietary supplements, as recommended by their physician.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (put out by the federal government) recommend that most adults eat 8 ounces of seafood each week, typically two four-ounce servings, and about 12 ounces for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Check out my web pages for more about essential fatty acids, and fatty acids, cell membranes and the inflammatory process.

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