Omega 3’s are powerful essential (meaning the body can’t synthesize them so they are necessary components of our diet) fatty acids that have numerous health benefits in the body all due to their ability to decrease inflammation. Unfortunately, many of us have some degree of inflammation in our body and it may be a result or combination of the food we eat, the toxins in our environment, elevated blood pressure, increased body fat and weight, high cholesterol and triglycerides, poor blood sugar control, depression and anxiety, and/or chronic illness just to name a few. Incorporating more omega 3’s into our diet can help to decrease the above inflammation and improve our overall health.
HEATLH BENEFITS OF OMEGA 3’S
The following are a list of science-based benefits of omega 3’s:
- Cardiovascular Health (lowers C-Reactive Protein & Triglycerides, increases HDL cholesterol, improves blood pressure, decreases plaque, and decreases cardiovascular inflammation)
- Brain Health
- Improves depression and anxiety and other mental health disorders
- Improves insulin sensitivity/decreases risk of metabolic syndrome
- Reduces symptoms of ADHD in children
- May reduce cancer risk
- Improves bone and joint health
- Improves skin and hair
- Helps improve auto immune disorders
- Improves dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
ALL OMEGA’s ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL
You might be asking, why are we so inflamed if this readily available fatty acid is so powerful as an anti-inflammatory. The truth is we consume far more omega 6’s, a pro inflammatory compound, found in canola, corn, soybean, vegetable and cottonseed oils as well as most packaged and processed foods than we do omega 3’s. It is recommended that we consume a 3:1 ratio of Omega 6’s to Omega 3’s, yet the estimate is that most Americans are closer to 25-30:1.
Minimizing packaged, processed foods and incorporating more omega 3 rich foods in our diet can help to balance our omega 6 to omega 3 ratio and decrease inflammation. Omega 3 rich foods include deep cold water fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, cod liver oil, herring, and oysters, other seafood including algae and krill, flax, chia and hemp seeds, walnuts, purslane and perilla leaves and oils, meat and dairy products from grass fed cows and pastured eggs.
ALA VS. EPA&DHA
There are 3 forms of omega 3’s: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA). DHA and EPA are found predominantly in animal sources listed in the above paragraph, whereas ALA is found mostly in plant based sources. Most mammals can convert ALA to EPA and DHA (i.e. grass fed cows, algae eating fish) however, sadly humans cannot! While all 3 are anti-inflammatory, research supports EPA and DHA as being more powerful in decreasing inflammation and improving health, therefore if possible incorporating fish, grass fed dairy/beef and pastured eggs into your diet is encouraged. For vegans or vegetarians who do not consume fish, remember there are still anti-inflammatory benefits in consuming plant based omega 3 foods!
Omega 3’s are one of my favorite supplements, but making sure you take the right one is key! To supplement with omega 3 is not the question, how much is the bigger question! Science based research shows health benefits when consuming 2,000mg/day of EPA and DHA combined. A higher quality omega 3 will provide >500mg of EPA+DHA per pill and dosage recommendations range between 2-4 pills or tsp. per day depending upon the mg provided. Do not assume all supplements are equal, and do not rely on the amount of fish oil advertised on the bottle. Read the “Supplement Facts” and look to see how much EPA and DHA are provided as well as the serving size! Many of my clients thought they were taking a quality fish or krill oil supplement only to realize it was either low in EPA and DHA or they had to take 8-10 pills to get close to the 2,000mg of EPA and DHA combined recommendation.
There are very few contraindications (reasons not to take):
1. If you have an allergy to fish (gilled fish, not shellfish)
2. If you are a vegan
3. If you avoid pork as some supplements use porcine in the gel cap (read the ingredients/label).
The only warning or precaution is for those taking blood thinners, (i.e. Coumadin or Warfarin) as omega 3’s can also thin the blood therefore consult with your physician before starting to supplement!
If you are allergic to fish or a vegan, taking a flax seed or plant based omega 3 ALA supplement is still a great anti-inflammatory option!
Omega 3’s are essential in your diet! Falling short of a panacea, they may just be the closest thing!
The information provided in this post is for education only and is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor should it be used as a replacement for seeking medical treatment.
Copyright © Jaime Coffey Martinez, Nutrition CPR, LLC