Omega 3: Essential Fats of Life
You’d be forgiven for believing all fats are bad for you – the idea that a low fat diet is best has been driven hard at the general public for quite some time. Thankfully, those involved in healthcare are waking up to the fact that certain group of fats, called Essential Fatty Acids are not only essential for good health, but can increase your energy level, boost your immune system, improve your ability to concentrate and help prevent and resolve a considerable number of diseases, including Alzheimer’s, fatigue, memory disorders, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, allergies and even depression. You need to know about them!
What are essential fatty acids?
The two Essential Fatty Acids, the Omega 3s and the Omega 6s are a form of polyunsaturated fats, one of the four basic types of fat that the body derives from food. The others are cholesterol, saturated fat, and monounsaturated fat. Omega 3s, which are found primarily in cold-water fish and Omega 6s, which are found in grains, most plant-based oils, poultry, and eggs cannot be produced by the body and therefore need to be eaten in your diet, in a ratio of 1:1 in order to maintain a good level of health and wellbeing. That’s the optimum ratio – however in reality, the ratio is believed to be nearer to 1:20, because of our low fish/high grain diet. This relative lack of Omega 3 is believed to be at the heart of the high levels of degenerative disease experienced in the Western world. Restoring this ratio can rapidly make a difference to your health.
Do you need to supplement your diet with Omega 3?
So how can you tell whether you are deficient in Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids? One of the easiest ways is to take this mini-questionnaire, which has been designed to identify the possibility of a deficiency. For each ‘YES’ answer, score yourself with one point.
Do you suffer from dry skin, dandruff or eczema?
Do you suffer from any inflammatory conditions or allergies?
Do you suffer from hormonal imbalance, PMS or breast pain?
Do you suffer from poor memory, low mood or difficulty in concentrating?
Do you suffer from obesity, high cholesterol or blood-sugar problems?
Do you eat less than 3 portions of oily fish a week?
If you score two or more it suggests that you are either experiencing, or at risk of, Omega 3 deficiency related disease and would benefit from supplementing your diet with an Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acid.
Which Omega 3 supplement should you take?
Once upon a time, I would have told you that you could get all of your Omega 3s by eating three servings of oily cold-water fish such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel a week. Unfortunately, research has proven conclusively, that most of the fish we eat is so heavily contaminated with toxins such as dioxin and mercury, that regular consumption of fish is potentially a health hazard. Even the Food Standards Agency has recognised this and now recommend eating no more than 4 servings a week. So what can you do?
My advice is take an Omega 3 rich supplement, which contains a high level of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are the two main active ingredients that are responsible for the health benefits of Omega 3. There are several different supplements that contain Omega 3 fatty acids, such as Omega 3 Fish Oil, Cod Liver Oil and Flaxseed Oil.
Generally, Omega 3 Fish Oil supplements contain the highest concentrations of EPA and DHA, so I would recommend that you choose an Omega 3 Fish Oil supplement to gain maximum benefits..
Take between one and three capsules a day that provide high levels of EPA and DHA, such as 330mg EPA and 220mg DHA. The great advantage of Omega 3 Fish Oil supplements are their relatively low cost, compared to eating fish and most importantly they are manufactured to ensure very low levels of contamination, to within EU standards. They can however go rancid, so make sure that you choose a brand that contains vitamin E as this prevents rancidity from occurring. However, one word of caution, whatever Omega 3 supplement you decide to take, you should know that they do have a blood thinning effect, so if you are on blood-thinning medication such as Warfarin, you should speak to your GP prior to taking Omega 3 Fish Oil supplements.
What are the benefits of Omega 3 fish oil supplementation?
There is not a month that goes by when researchers fail to announce yet further benefits of taking Omega 3 Fish Oil. Improvement in skin health, brain function, mood, intelligence and reduction in inflammation and cancer are just a few of the benefits of Omega 3 supplementation that have been discovered. Others include:
Improved heart health
Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids have been shown to play a part in reducing high cholesterol levels, reducing blood pressure, stabilising an irregular heart beat and reducing the "stickiness" of blood cells called platelets, which can lead to such complications as blood clots and stroke.
Improvement in rheumatoid arthritis, Raynaud's disease, psoriasis and other inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
The two active ingredients in Omega 3 Fish Oil, EPA and DHA are converted by the body, into the natural anti-inflammatory substances called prostaglandins and leukotrienes, compounds which help to decrease inflammation and pain. Numerous studies have confirmed their powerful anti-inflammatory effects in conditions such as arthritis and Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Also, many people who take Omega 3 Fatty Acids discover that they can actually reduce the number of pain-killers that they need to take.
Improve depression and symptoms of other mental health problems.
Your brain is 60% fat, and in order to function optimally it needs to receive the right quantity and quality of fats, particularly the Omega 3s. The Omega 3s are essential in keeping the brains cells communicating with one another, when this fails to take place as it should, poor memory, focus, and low mood result. Numerous studies have proven that taking Omega 3 Fish Oil can not only relieve depression and the blues, but prevent brain degeneration and even reverse Alzheimer’s disease.
There is overwhelming evidence that supplementing your diet with an Omega 3 Fish Oil supplement on a daily basis is not only essential to good health, but is one of the most powerful and simplest ways of preventing and treating many of today’s chronic degenerative diseases such as a Alzheimers, fatigue, memory disorders, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, allergies and even depression. When taking an Omega 3 supplement, look for one that contains high levels of the active ingredients (EPA and DHA) as well as Vitamin E to prevent the oil going rancid. Finally, use it in conjunction with a diet that is high in whole natural foods and low in processed foods and with a high-potency Multi-Vitamin, Mineral and Antioxidant to maximise the benefits.