I am a firm believer in both traditional and alternative medicine. Both have played a critical role in my overall well-being; and I have had the good fortune of having doctors that support and encourage this twofold path.
One of my doctors routinely asks me if I am taking my fish oil and each time I confess, yes but not faithfully! Spa Girl definitely needs to heed her own advice!
Most of my friends when asked that same question answer "of course" or "why should I take fish oil" and when I dig deeper, most of the time it boils down to a lack of knowledge about which omega-3 to take and its overall importance to our health. I find the same confusion exists around multi-vitamins, but that's another blog!
Two of the most important omega-3's found in fish oil are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoicacid) critical for heart and brain health. But like all supplements, some are better than others, so make sure to ask your health practitioner which are the best brands and make sure you read the labels, you definitely want a brand that has EPA and DHA.
In researching this blog I came across a great deal of information (both pro and con) and one of the best, and most detailed overviews was by Tracy Shields, co-owner and Marketing Director of N3 Oceanic, Inc. She is a writer, a triathlete, and nutrition junkie.
Tracy discusses the "five big myths about fish oil you simply can’t afford to Ignore"!
It’s true that there are omega-3s found in flax and other plant-based foods. But they are not the best version of omega-3s. All omega-3 fatty acids are "essential" fatty acids (EFA) because they are vital for normal metabolism and cannot be synthesized or created by the human body.
There are three main types of omega-3s: EPA, DHA and ALA. Foods like flaxseed, leafy green veggies and walnuts all have the ALA form of omega-3s, and while they are very healthy for you, our bodies need to work to convert them into something recognizable that we can actually use—EPA and DHA. Fish and high-quality fish-oil capsules contain EPA and DHA, so they’re already in the form your body recognizes. The fish in the sea have done all the work for you! No extra work needs to be done to convert anything. EPA and DHA are required in high amounts for optimal heart and brain heath.
There are also two issues with ALA that prevent it from being the best form of EFA:• Some people’s bodies have trouble converting ALA to EPA and DHA, or they simply cannot convert it at all.• If you are taking an omega-3 for the prevention of heart disease, the ALA form has not been shown in case studies to lower triglycerides significantly, whereas EPA and DHA have. In fact, most studies on omega-3s have been done on EPA and DHA, simply because these molecules have already been converted. They are also the two essential fatty acids that make up the brain.
Myth 2: Omega-6s are just as important.
While this is a true statement, it’s a little misleading. Both omega-3s and omega-6s are essential. We need them to survive and we need to find them in our diet because our bodies cannot make them. While omega-3s are found in fish, omega-6s are found in plant-based vegetable oils. Trouble is, we ingest 14-25 times more omega-6s than omega-3s when the ratio should be balanced. Years ago, our intake of omega-3s compared to omega-6s was closer to a 1:1 ratio. Our diets consisted of a lot more fish and grass-eating wild game animals and a lot less vegetable oil, corn and soy products (did you know that corn oil or a variety of it is found in almost ALL our snack foods as a processing agent?). Today, it is grossly imbalanced. In fact, “Some researchers believe an imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may lead to a variety of mental disorders, including hyperactivity, depression, brain allergies and schizophrenia.” (fi.edu)
The other problem is inflammation. Even though omega-6s are essential, they tend to cause inflammation, whereas omega-3s reduce inflammation. When we have a 1:1 ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s, our chance of inflammation—including that associated with heart disease—is vastly lower.
Did you also know that scientists studying the evolution of man’s brain found that “early humans who lived near water sources and ate seafood experienced the big brain change!” Conversely, “the inland Australopithecines did not have access to omega-3 essential fatty acids and got stuck at a brain capacity that was not much bigger than a chimpanzee for three million years.” (fi.edu) Omega-3s in the form of EPA and DHA grow your brain!
Myth 3: I get enough omega-3 from fish.
There’s no question, eating fish is healthy for you. Not only do you get valuable amounts of EPA and DHA in fish, but they are also an excellent source of protein, vitamin B-12 and iron. There are also trace amounts of iodine, calcium, phosphorus and vitamins A and D found in most fish.
Trouble is, fish can be contaminated with various toxins including metals like mercury and lead, industrial chemicals like PCBs, and even pesticides like DDT and dieldrin. Some fish are so contaminated that the federal government and environmental protection agencies recommend limited or no consumption of those fish. As an example, wild-caught Alaskan salmon is a relatively safe fish to eat, whereas farmed Atlantic salmon is one of the worst.
And yet, as a rule, we are still only supposed to eat a maximum of two servings per week. How can we balance our ratio of omega-3s with omega-6s if we can only eat two servings per week while getting 25 servings of omega-6s? Cutting back on omega-6s can help, but supplementing with omega-3s is crucial in maintaining better health and a more balanced metabolism.
Myth 4: Supplements such as fish oil don’t do anything for you.
This one is false. For the past 30 years, research has only grown to include more and more reliable, well-respected studies on the benefits of supplementing with EPA and DHA. In fact, in 2004 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave "qualified health claim" status to EPA and DHA fatty acids. In short, EPA and DHA have been found to improve cardiovascular disease, decrease triglycerides, reduce inflammation, improve immune function, improve memory, increase eye health and much more.
According to some, "high-dose pharmaceutical-grade fish oil is as close to a medical miracle as we will see in the 21st century." For hundreds of customers’ feedback on what supplements can and will do for you, please see our Testimonials page.
Myth 5: Fish oil is only for people who are sick.
False. They don’t call omega-3s “essential fatty acids” for nothing. They are essential to every living thing on the planet that has a brain. They are not just required for superhuman health, but to keep us alive and generally well on a very basic level. Unfortunately, our bodies do not make them on their own. That means we need to find them in our diet. As short as 50 years ago, fish and wild-caught game were abundant. But now with the onslaught of processed foods and meats procured from animals that are now exclusively grain-fed (instead of grass-fed), there are virtually no omega-3s in our diet. According to some experts, we only eat 23 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per day. That’s way below the recommended 950 milligrams of omega-3s necessary for our survival. It’s no wonder that heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other kinds of brain disorders are astronomically high. Without omega-3s people become sick!
The Best Omega-3s Come From Norway
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What You Need To Know About Fish Oil