What Is Omega-3 and What Can It Do for Me?
For a long time scientists believed that all excessive fat intake was bad for the body and was linked to declining heart health. This was until scientists were forced to unravel the mystery behind Eskimos in Greenland who thrived on a high-fat diet and yet had robust heart health. It was then that scientists discovered that fats can be good or bad and the kind of fats the Eskimos were eating, were the good variety found in fatty fish. These good fats are called omega-3 fatty acids and actually help to promote heart health.
The bad kind of fat is considered to be omega-6 fatty acids and we should limit our intake of foods containing the omega-6 variety of fats. Omega-6 fatty acids are usually found in hydrogenated oils, trans-fat, items like eggs, poultry, baked goods and margarines. Research indicates that we should consume a diet that has a healthy ratio of omega-6 against omega-3, preferably 3:1.
Omega 3 fatty acids are known to impart several benefits on health besides supporting cardiovascular health and arterial health. For a healthy individual, the American Heart Health Association recommends including fatty fish in your diet at least twice a week for the protective omega 3 benefits. If this is not possible, a good way to get a regular intake of omega 3s is through omega 3 supplements.
Why Should I Take Omega 3 Supplements?
Omega-3 supplements have attained high visibility in the market due to impressive support from scientific research resulting in a wide range of dietary supplement options for omega-3 supplements. Normally derived from cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna or mackerel, omega-3 supplements are forming an important component of today’s healthy American diet.
Since the body cannot manufacture omega-3, it must be obtained from dietary sources. EPA and DHA are the two most important omega 3 fatty acids that are known to confer multiple health benefits on the body. Vegetable oils contain an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha linolenic acid (ALA). The body needs to convert ALA into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The conversion rate is inefficient at best. Fish oil contains EPA and DHA which the body can absorb directly and therefore has the maximum health-promoting potential for the body.
Promotes a Healthy Heart
Fish oil from fatty fish helps to regulate normal cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It is believed to inhibit plaque buildup and blood clots in the arteries leading to the brain. Fish oil may help to regulate normal blood pressure.
Promotes Joint Health
Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, fish oil is noted for nutritionally supporting healthy joints and many have noticed less morning stiffness and tenderness of joints since they began either eating fatty fish regularly or taking an omega 3 supplement. In women, a combination of calcium supplements and omega 3 supplements is seen to support bone health. It is also believed that fish oil may enhance the efficacy of standard medication for joint discomfort.
Promotes Immune Health
A diet that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids is seen to support healthy immune functions. This was especially noted in infants who were given a regular intake of omega-3 supplements.
Promotes Brain Health and Moods
The brain is made up of 60 percent fats and much of this fat is DHA. Fish oil helps to keep the cell membrane in a fluid and semi-permeable state. This allows nutrients and waste to flow in and out. Brain cells especially are dependent on a healthy cell membrane since impulse signals and cell-to-cell communication are conducted through neuronal cell membranes. In addition, there appears to be a correlation between elevated moods, memory retention, cognitive abilities and the intake of fish oil. Fish is considered to be necessary for healthy brain development in pre-natal growth.
Promotes Eye Health
The cornea of the eye mainly consists of DHA. DHA is thus considered essential for supporting eye health. Omega-3 supplements not only promote eye health, but also are known to support healthy skin and hair.
Choosing the Right Omega 3 Supplement
Care should be taken in choosing the right omega-3 supplement. Health grade fish oils may contain contaminants like mercury and other PCBs which are harmful to health. Pharmaceutical grade fish oil undergoes molecular distillation that removes most impurities and also contains a higher potency of EPA and DHA.
A common side effect of taking omega-3 supplements may be mild indigestion or fishy after-burps. This can be avoided by taking supplements that have an enteric coating. The enteric coating assures digestion of omega 3 fatty acids takes place in the lower intestine and not in the stomach.
Look for a supplement that contains pharmaceutical grade fish oil and has an enteric coating.
Like a daily multi-vitamin which most people are used to taking, many experts consider a daily omega-3 supplement essential for supporting vital aspects of our health.