I recently blogged about supplements and the importance of getting all the vitamins and minerals the body needs so everything can function properly. Supplementing fish oil (omegas) is a bit more complex than other supplements—you need to know whether or not you need to supplement, how much you need, and how to supplement properly.
How much do you need?
A healthy balance (a 1:1 ratio) of omega-6 (red meats, eggs) and omega-3 (fish, animal products and phytoplankton) is crucial, as it creates healthier blood vessels, lowers lipid count and reduces the risk of plaque buildup.
A Little about the Omega’s
• DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and ALA are considered omega-3s.
• ALA is the most common of the omega-3 fatty acids to be found in most Western diets, as it is found in vegetable oils, nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds and flaxseed oil, leafy vegetables and in the fat of some grass-fed animals.
Does the source matter?
Evidence suggests that increased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, either from fish or fish-oil supplements, but NOT alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) reduces the rates of all-cause mortality, including cardiac and sudden death, and possibly stroke.
The body uses ALA for energy, and the conversion into EPA and DHA is limited to between 5-15 percent of the intake. That means that at least 70 percent and up to 99 percent of ALA in the body goes unused as a source of omega-3. With this in mind, it’s clear that we need a sufficient source of EPA and DHA omega-3s to supplement what we get in our diets. The amount to aim for is between 3-9 grams (total) of fish oil per day.
If you choose to supplement with fish oil, care needs to be taken to make sure you don’t get too much. Excess amounts of omega-3 fatty acids can sometimes alter immune function in ways that lead to a dysfunctional immune response and can result in a viral or bacterial infection.
Please note: If you’re taking prescription medication of omega-3 fatty acids -OM3-FA, dietary supplements for omega-3 fatty acids should not be substituted for prescription products; prescription omega-3 fatty acid products that contain DHA are not equivalent to or interchangeable with high-purity EPA, and should not be substituted for it. Source link here.
What you need to know
It’s important to make sure the body receives the proper amount of omegas though, because our bodies are unable to make them from scratch. Omegas are an important part of our cell membranes throughout the body, and affect the function of the cell receptors. Omegas also provide a starting point for the creation of the hormones that regulate blood clotting, the contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation. These fats appear to help the heart beat at a steady rate, lower blood pressure, improve blood vessel function, and lower triglycerides to ease inflammation, which plays an important role in the development of atherosclerosis (more reading here). As such, the proper amount of omegas in our bodies can help prevent heart disease and stroke, may help control lupus, eczema and rheumatoid arthritis, and may play protective roles with cancer and other conditions.
In addition to the benefits already mentioned, fish-oil supplementation has numerous other advantages. These include:
• Decreased risk of developing advanced prostate cancer
• Lower levels of stress and anxiety
• Increases attention span of children with ADHD
• Improves strength training results
• Increases HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels
• Improves mood and overall well-being, which lowers aggression
Keep in mind that fish oil supplementation isn’t appropriate for everyone. Even though products are highly refined (and contain minimal protein), someone who is allergic to the proteins in fish, krill or calamari (squid), need to exercise caution when supplementing, or not use fish oil. An increasing amount of foods, including eggs, bread, butters, oils and orange juice are being “fortified” with omega-3. This increases the potential of consuming high levels of omega-3, especially if coupled with the use of a fish oil supplement, if appropriate. There are no evidence-based standards for omega-3 intake, and no way to tell for certain who may be at a health risk if too much omega-3 fatty acids are consumed, more trials need to be done. Again, it’s important to make sure you don’t consume too much.
Wow, That’s a lot. Confused?
Deciding whether or not you should supplement omegas with fish oil can be confusing. I can help by taking your diet, as well as any medications and other supplements you may be taking into consideration, and making a recommendation that is appropriate for you. If you need help, I’m just a message or a phone call away.