Fish Oil and the Omega-3s

Posted on by Ami Spencer

Chances are, you’ve heard the buzz about fish oil somewhere. But what’s the big deal about? It turns out that the omega-3 fatty acids that make up fish oil are important for some of the body’s basic functions, particularly in the nervous system. Unfortuantely, our bodies can’t make these helpful fatty acids on their own. Instead, we have to get them from the foods we eat in order to reap their benefits.

Increasing omega-3 intake has been linked to a reduction in the risk of developing arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease and some cancers. In addition, they may also improve the symptoms of depression, although more studies are needed to confirm this theory.

So where can we find this beneficial substance? Fish oil includes two types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). This oil occurs naturally in some fish, including mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon, hence the name. Fish oil is also availalbe in capsule form, however the American Heart Association recommends that you get your fish oil from food sources, instead. Adding a serving of any of the fish mentioned above to your diet two or more times a week will supply you with the omega-3s you need.

In addition to fish, other foods, such as tofu, walnuts, soy beans, and flaxseed contain alpha-linolenic acid (LNA), which our bodies can convert into omega-3 fatty acid. More research is needed, but it is suspected that including these foods in your diet may have health benefits similar to those of fish oil. So start adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet, however you decide to get them. Your heart, mind, and maybe even your mood, will benefit.

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  1. Great article on the importance of getting omega 3 fatty acids in your diet. However, I would caution readers about counting on plant sources for their omega 3s.

    Omega 3 sources like oily fish – salmon, tuna, sardines and anchovies – have been proven over and over again to be the preferred source for these fatty acids.

    Whether the studies are done in a lab, through a double blind, placebo controlled experiment, as a meta-analysis or through scientific observation; the benefits of fish oil omega 3s are far greater than those of flax oil or perilla oil ALA.

    You’ll find an isolated study here and there that promotes ALA from flax, but when you weigh that against the overwhelming evidence of fish oil omega 3s, it just won’t stand up.

    For example, over 95% of the studies that explain the benefits of omega 3s use fish oils – not flax and not perilla. Secondly, the studies that support flax are very limited and nearly never point out how difficult it is to convert ALA to EPA and DHA.

    Most flax oil users are shocked to find out that studies show only between a half of 1% and 2% of flax oil ALA will convert to EPA and DHA. Too many variables are involved – gender, diet, lifestyle – for this conversion to happen efficiently.

    Just some food for thought.

    Michael

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