The Good and Healthy Fat Called Omega-3
There is lots of talk about fats in the media and in magazines. We hear a lot of media attention placed around saturated and trans fats, which are hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats and oils.
Hydrogenated fats are heated and pressure-processed. The result being that they have extra hydrogen added which makes them solid or semi-solid at room temperature. These fats are found in just about every processed food that lands on a supermarket shelf and ultimately in your shopping cart. All of these unhealthy fats have been linked to all kinds of symptoms and degenerative diseases.
Omega-3 fats on the other hand are polyunsaturated fat that has been shown in scientific studies to have proven health benefits. It all started back in the 1950′s when scientists were studying the diet of the Inuit in Greenland. Their food consumption was extremely high in fat but they had a correspondingly low incidence of heart problems and circulatory disease. Scientists recognized that their mainly cold water fish diet was high in omega-3 fatty acids.
There are two kinds of omega-3 essential fatty acids. The first group of omega-3s is found in certain cold water fish that are oily, such as sardines, mackerel, salmon, herring and albacore tuna. They consist of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The other group of omega-3s is from plants. They consist of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) found in plant sources like flax seed, certain nuts like walnuts, and some vegetable oils like soybean, canola and olive. All types of omega-3 essential fatty acids should be used in a healthy diet but the latest scientific evidence that there are more health benefits from fish sources,EPA and DHA, than the plant sources, the ALA.
Since the 1950′s with the Eskimo studies, there have been numerous studies supporting EPA and DHA from oily fish as an adjunct to the prevention and repair of cardiovascular disease. Multiple findings show that the EPA/DHA combinations lower blood triglycerides significantly enough to help reduce symptoms of heart disease, reduce blood pressure and even lower the incidence and risk of heart attacks.
There is other evidence, although not conclusive that EPA and DHA ingestion reduces joint stiffness and tenderness associated with inflammatory responses. Other effects showed reductions in inflammatory conditions such as eczema, Crohn’s disease, allergies, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and asthma. Certain conditions that affect the brain such as depression, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, hyperactivity disorders in children and impaired mental and cognitive function were also improved.
The Heart Associations recommend having at least two cold-water fatty fish meals per week. The fish should be broiled, steamed or baked to protect the omega-3 oils from going trans or becoming damaged by frying. People who don’t like fish can choose a fish oil supplement, but keep in mind that a recent Norwegian study showed that people who eat 14 ounces of cold water fish per week, absorbed more EPA/DHA than those that took 3 teaspoons of cold pressed cod liver oil per day.
Consult with your nutritional consultant or health care professional to find out what supplement you should use. Look for liquid or capsules that are guaranteed free from mercury and other pollutants. If you are purchasing capsules, you may want them enteric coated so that they pass through the stomach before they dissolve, so you won’t be burping up fish all day. Sometimes you will find that Vitamin E has been added to prevent the fish oil from oxidizing and going rancid. You should try to take your dosage at the beginning of a meal.
People who are in good health should take a supplement containing no less than 400 mg of EPA and 200 mg of DHA to maintain their good health. For people with circulatory or heart disease, the Heart Association recommends 2 to 4 grams (2000 to 4000 mg) of EPA plus DHA every day to greatly lower blood triglycerides. The bad cholesterol lowering effect can be quite significant. The Heart Association also recommends at least 1 gram (1000 mg) of EPA plus DHA for people with the diagnosis of heart disease or high blood pressure. The more fish-derived essential fats taken in, the greater the drop in high blood pressure.
Since high doses of fish-derived essential fats over 3 grams (3000 mg) per day seem to have a blood thinning effect, you should consult your nutritional consultant or health care professional before beginning any high dose regimen. Also if you are on any kind of medication, you also need to check with your pharmacist or health care professional to make sure there will be no interactions with fish oil supplements.
Good fats are healthy fats and should be often enough to protect you from inflammatory conditions that can ruin your health and comfort. By adding omega-3 essential fatty acids to your diet you are providing the insurance you need to stay healthy or restore your health.
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