What Daily Essential Protects Your Heart, Brain And Joints?

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By Jill Hillhouse BPHE, RNCP with Dr. Kelly Upcott, NDKrill_softgels

Remember when you were a kid and mom made you take a tablespoon of cod liver oil daily?  Well, fish oil supplements have come a long way since then as far as taste, quality and scientific research.  Studies are published almost daily, as the medical community discovers more and more of the extraordinary benefits for adults provided by Omega-3 fish oil.

The Facts On Fats

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids which are the “good fats” your body needs for proper metabolic functioning, but that it can’t produce, so they must be obtained from diet and supplementation. The nutritionally important omega-3 fats include EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), the active forms of omega-3 fat in the body. Fish oil is rich in both of these essential compounds.

  • High doses of fish oil can help regulate inflammatory compounds in the body and consequently assist in the treatment of inflammatory conditions like arthritis, cystitis, fibromyalgia and inflammatory bowel conditions.
  • In clinical trials, omega-3 fish oil from Krill reduced arthritis pain by 29% and stiffness by 20% in just 4 weeks
  • Scientific research also shows that omega-3 fish oil can help reduce the inflammation that is at the root of heart disease and atherosclerosis.
  • An increasing number of studies provide evidence that omega-3 fats can improve one’s blood lipid levels (cholesterol and triglycerides), lower blood pressure, stabilize heart rhythm, decrease the risk of coronary heart disease and even reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death.
  • Further studies have shown that omega-3 fish oils help prevent three of the most common forms of cancer: breast, colon and prostate. Science tells us that omega-3 fats accomplish this in three ways – by stopping the alteration from a normal healthy cell to a cancerous one, by inhibiting unwanted cellular growth and by causing cell death to cancerous cells.
  • Omega-3 fats are highly concentrated in the brain, as 60% of the brain’s weight comes from fat. High doses of fish oil can help maintain adequate levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, thereby reducing depression, dementia and the development of Parkinson’s disease. Dopamine is the chemical responsible for mental concentration, and serotonin is the chemical known as “the feel good hormone” promoting a sense of well-being.
  • Other documented benefits of fish oil supplementation for adults are: healthier hair, stronger nails, more radiant skin, improved metabolism and more “get up and go”.
  • Polyunsaturated fats found in common cooking oils are mostly what are known as omega-6 fatty acids. The key to promoting optimal health with essential fatty acids is by achieving a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 at a ratio of 1:1. Unfortunately, the typical Canadian diet generally contains at least 20 times more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids, and it’s estimated that 85% of people in the Western world are deficient in omega-3.
  • Seemingly minor differences in their molecular structure make the two EFA families (omega-3 and omega-6) act very differently in the body. While the metabolic products of omega-6 acids promote inflammation, blood clotting, and tumour growth, the omega-3 fish oils help reduce platelet stickiness and systemic inflammation.

What Type And How Much Should I Take?
a)      In order to achieve the benefits of EPA and DHA intake, supplementation from cold water fish is most beneficial.

b)      Be advised, not all fish oil supplements are of the same quality. Be sure that your supplementary fish oil is pharmaceutical-grade.  Low-grade fish oil may cause gastrointestinal problems like bloating and diarrhoea, and often leave a bad taste in the mouth, not to mention they may contain mercury, PCB’s and DDT.

c)       Many people take flax oil in the hopes of achieving the anti-inflammatory benefits of the omega-3 fish oils, but it’s important to know that while ALA from flax can be converted to EPA and DHA, the conversion is very weak (less than 10%) and declines with age.

d)      Pharmaceutical-grade fish oils are typically more expensive but given the above facts (listed in a,b,c), often worth the higher price.  Your body and brain deserve nothing less.

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The content and opinions expressed in this article are the professional and/or personal view or opinion of the author only.  Opinions expressed should not be construed as medical advice, and the article’s content is not a substitute for direct, personal, professional medical care and diagnosis. Individuals should always consult with their health care provider before beginning or changing any treatment program.

References

1. Uauy-Dagach, Ricardo and Valenzuela, Alfonso. Marine oils: the health benefits of n-3 fatty acids. Nutrition Reviews, Vol. 54, November 1996, pp. S102-S108

2. Edwards, R., et al. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid levels in the diet and in red blood cell membranes of depressed patients. Journal of Affective Disorders, Vol. 48, March 1998, pp. 149-55

3. Hibbeln, Joseph R. Fish consumption and major depression. The Lancet, Vol. 351, April 18, 1998, p. 1213 (correspondence)

4. Eritsland, Jan. Safety considerations of polyunsaturated fatty acids. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 71 (suppl), January 2000, pp. 197S-201S

5. Connor, William E. Importance of n-3 fatty acids in health and disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 71 (suppl), January 2000, pp. 171S-75S

6. Daviglus, Martha L., et al. Fish consumption and the 30-year risk of fatal myocardial infarction. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 336, April 10, 1997, pp. 1046-53

7. Christensen, Jeppe Hagstrup, et al. Effect of fish oil on heart rate variability in survivors of myocardial infarction. British Medical Journal, Vol. 312, March 16, 1996, pp. 677-78

8. Simon, Joel A., et al. Serum fatty acids and the risk of coronary heart disease. American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 142, No. 5, September 1, 1995, pp. 469-76

9.Journal of the American College of Nutrition May 2007