Everyone and their mother has heard about them, so what is the deal with omega 3’s?
Well, as you may know, dietary fats are an essential nutrient in the human diet, and perhaps the crown jewel of the fat family is a specific type known as omega 3 fatty acids.
There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids:
- (ALA) Alpha-liolenic Acid
- (EPA) Eicosapentaenoic Acid
- (DHA) Docosahexaenoic Acid
Of the three, EPA and DHA are by far the most vital and play the most important role in optimal human health. EPA and DHA can be found in marine sources such as fish, which is why omega 3 fatty acids are often called “fish oil”. ALA, which can be obtained from some plant sources such as flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp, and soybeans can be converted by the body into EPA and DHA, but this process is extremely inefficient meaning it is much more important for our bodies that we consume adequate amounts of the “fish oil” fatty acids.
So what makes omega 3’s so important?
Humans are unable to synthesize omega 3 fatty acids, meaning we must obtain them from food sources or supplements. The unfortunate part is that the average American diet is deficient in omega 3’s resulting in sub-par health. This is because omega 3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain and eye health, cell function, cell communication, hormone production, blood vessel health, inflammatory pathways, and even genetic expression. By having such a large role in mitigating the inflammatory pathways, omega 3 fatty acid consumption has been linked with having benefits or preventative abilities for conditions such as arthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune conditions, and even depression, mood, and behavior. Additionally omega 3 consumption has been shown to be beneficial in the prevention of several cancers including breast cancer. More research is needed, but several early studies have shown omega 3 fatty acids may have beneficial effects for the following conditions: ADHD, asthma, heart disease, lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis as well.
Again, The best way to obtain omega 3 fatty acids is through food. Aim to eat a handful of nuts daily and oily fish/marine life (anchovies, halibut, herring, mackerel, mussels, oysters, salmon, sardines, tuna, etc.) at least twice per week.
But this can be unrealistic for those who don’t frequently eat or enjoy fish. If this sounds like you, supplementing omega 3’s may be a great option. You should look for an omega 3 supplement containing at least 1,000 mg of EPA + DHA.
What’s the best kind?
There are many forms of supplemental omega 3 fatty acids, most often being sold as a pill or a liquid. The problem with consuming the pill form is that the average bottle of omega 3’s will sit on a shelf for a long time prior to being sold. This extended amount of time allows some of the fatty acids to go rancid, a process that changes the structure of the fatty acids when exposed to light, air, or moisture, resulting in a product that can be harmful to the body rather than helpful. An easy way to check for rancidity is to cut open one of the capsules. If it has a fishy odor, a fishy taste, or if the capsule gives you the “fish burps”, the fatty acids have likely begun to go rancid. The truth is, a high quality omega 3 supplement should have none of the fishy odor, taste, or belches.
That is why we prefer liquid omega 3 fatty acids. Don’t let the thought of this deter you; liquid omega 3’s are tasteless and odorless. By consuming in the liquid form, you are immediately able to check for rancidity. Be sure to only purchase liquid omega 3’s sold in either a blue, green, or brown glass bottle which prevents UV light from damaging the fatty acids.
Our favorite brand is Carlson - The Very Finest Fish Oil. It is sold in a UV blocking brown glass bottle and each serving gives you a whopping dose of 1,600 mg of omega 3 fatty acids. If you are still having a hard time with the idea of taking liquid fish oil, this specific fish oil comes in a lemon flavor. Most importantly, this brand is independently lab tested and IFOS (International Fish Oil Standards) certified to ensure the highest quality, safety, and purity standards.
Getting enough Omega 3’s is but one step to better health, but each step adds up in the journey towards a better you. If you aren’t taking control of your health, then who will?
To a healthier tomorrow,
Brennan Malham, PA-C
*The information on this site is intended for informative purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Be sure to talk with your medical provider prior to beginning taking any new supplement to make sure it is right for you.
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