Essential or Omega fatty acids are the “good” fats that your body needs to establish and maintain overall well-being. They can only be acquired through a healthy diet; the body does not produce them on its own. The two most common Omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in smaller, cold-water fish, (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, anchovies, and other species), and have names you can’t spell or pronounce – call them EPA and DHN. To avoid getting too much mercury in your diet, focus on getting your Omega-3s from the smaller types of fish. Remember the acronym SMASH (sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, and herring). Smaller fish tend to have lower doses of mercury, whereas bigger fish like Tuna, would have larger amounts accumulated in their bodies because they are higher up on the food chain. Since the typical North American diet is quite deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids, daily supplementation with a natural fish oil formula is a good way to obtain their health-promoting benefits.
We also eat Omega-6 and Omega-9 in our diet. Omega-6s are the most prevalent. Omega-6s, in really large quantities, turn into arachidonic acid in the body and this causes inflammation in the body. Omega-9 are more neutral, they are not as healthy as omega-3s, but they do a good job of removing Omega-6s from our cells (think of them as taking up space so Omega-6s can’t find a place to hangout). The best source of Omega-9s in our diet is Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Omega-6s should be avoided as much as possible. Sources of Omega-6s include corn oil, safflower oil, most vegetable oils, rapeseed oil, etc. We need to focus on eating more Omega 3s and 9s. The ratio should be about 6:1 in terms of Omega 6 to Omega 3 and the average American diet puts us at about 40:1.
The benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids go way beyond the general maintenance of good health:
Arthritis and inflammatory conditions — The powerful anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 oils from fish reduce stiffness and help relieve joint and muscle pain.
Attention Deficit Disorder and memory — Research reveals that Omega-3s, specifically DHA, help increase focus and memory retention in children and adults. More positive research is showing a positive effect on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Cholesterol and blood pressure — Omega-3 oils promote a healthy cholesterol balance in the body by helping to lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise good cholesterol (HDL) levels. Clinical research also reveals reductions in blood pressure with the intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
Depression and mood regulation — Regular supplementation of Omega-3 fatty acids can elevate mood and lessen depression and anxiety. High potency fish oil with added Vitamin D is very useful in treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (“SAD”).
Digestive system health — Regular Omega-3 supplementation aids digestion by soothing and lubricating the bowel. Fish oil is helpful in treating many gastrointestinal disorders such as ulcers and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis, due to its anti-inflammatory effect.
Healthy eyes — Fish oil supplements reduce the risk of age-related vision problems, including macular degeneration. DHA is important for visual development in infants. It is also useful for dry eyes, a common nuisance for people working in front of computers.
Healthy skin and hair — Skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis can be improved with Omega-3 supplements. Regular intake of omega oils creates a healthy glow and shiny hair. It can even help prevent hair loss.
Heart Health — A diet rich in Omega-3s supports healthy cardiovascular function and may reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Studies show that they promote healthy blood-sugar levels, help lower blood pressure and reduce blood clotting and arterial plaque build-up.
Healthy Hormone Production: Our hormones (particularly our sex hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone) all have a cholesterol component to them. And we get those cholesterols from fats in our diet. So even if you are on a low-fat diet, you need to get a good source of Omegas in your diet, otherwise, our bodies will suffer. Unhealthy fats = unhealthy cholesterol = unhealthy hormones.
Leading national and international health agencies recommend a daily combined dosage of approximately 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA for optimum health. We should be getting a ratio of 2:1 EPA to DHA. This is easily identified in supplements. Individuals with specific health concerns may require a combined daily dosage as high as 4,000 mg. It is important to note that dosing should be based on the amount of EPA and DHA Omega-3 fatty acids in a product, not on the total amount of fish oil.
I’ve heard that the Omega-3s in fish oil are good for a child’s brain development. Is this true?
DHA comprises 25%–35% of the brain’s fatty material. These fats are supplied by the mother’s body during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but not after. Between birth and five years of age, the human brain increases approximately 3.5 times in mass.
A supplement ensures that children will get adequate amounts of DHA during this period of rapid brain growth and eye development. Even though the DHA is important, the ratio in the supplement should STILL have 2:1 EPA to DHA. In studies, having high levels of DHA without the supporting higher level of EPA has been associated with ADD and ADHD in children.
How can I avoid having fish oils “repeat” on me all day?
Take only coated tablets. Look for ones that include the fat-digesting enzyme lipase which breaks down oils into usable components that the body can more easily absorb. Take your fish oil supplements with food.
I am concerned about contaminants in my fish oil supplement.
The International Fish Oil Standards Program (IFOS) provides an independent, third-party rating and a “worldwide benchmark of compliance” regarding the manufacture of fish oil supplements. Simply look for the IFOS symbol on the label and you can be assured that you have a quality fish oil supplement free of contaminants.