: Three's A Charm
Posted July 13, 2015
By Michael T. Murray, ND
One of the major advances in nutritional medicine has been the ability to produce a fish oil supplement that is a highly concentrated source of omega-3 fatty acids and also free from damaged fats (lipid peroxides), heavy metals, environmental contaminants, and other harmful compounds. These "pharmaceutical-grade" fish oil concentrates are so superior to earlier fish oil products that they have revolutionized nutritional medicine. Even vegetarian sources of omega-3 fats produced from algae are now available.
While most Americans eat way too much of the omega-6 fats found in meats and most vegetable oils, they suffer a relative deficiency of the omega-3 oils -- a situation that is associated with an increased risk for heart disease and about 60 other conditions, including cancer, arthritis, stroke, high blood pressure, skin diseases, and diabetes. Particularly important to health are the longer-chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which are found in fish, especially coldwater fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and halibut.
Certain other foods, namely flaxseeds walnuts, and chia seeds, contain alpha-linolenic acid, which is a short-chain omega-3 fatty acid that the body converts to the longer-chain omega-3s. However, some research suggests that this conversion process (from short- to long-chain omega-3 fatty acid) is not efficient.
Did you know?
Eating a diet rich in omega-6 fats (e.g., processed foods, vegetable oils) and low in omega-3 fats strongly promotes inflammation, which underlies many diseases and is associated with a significantly increased risk for many cancers, most notably breast and prostate cancer.
Why are long-chain omega-3 fatty acids so important? The answer has to do with the function of these fatty substances in cellular membranes and inflammation. A diet that is deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, results in altered cell membranes. Without a healthy membrane, cells lose their ability to hold water, vital nutrients, and electrolytes. They also lose their ability to communicate with other cells and be controlled by regulating hormones. They simply do not function properly. Cell membrane dysfunction is a critical factor in the development of virtually every chronic disease. Not surprisingly, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids have shown tremendous protective effects against all forms of disease.
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are also transformed into prostaglandins. These compounds carry out many important tasks in the body. They regulate inflam-mation, pain, and swelling; they play a role in maintaining blood pressure; and they regulate heart, digestive, and kidney function. Prostaglandins also participate in the response to allergies, help control transmission of signals along the nerves, and help regulate the production of steroids and other hormones. Through their effects on prostaglandins and other compounds, omega-3 fats can mediate many physiological processes, so they are useful in virtually every disease state as well.
Buying & Using Fish Oil
For general health, the recommended dosage for fish oil is 1,000 mg EPA and DHA (total) per day. Read the label carefully -- you are not looking for 1,000 mg of fish oil, but 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA. For therapeutic purposes, such as reducing inflammation or lowering triglyceride levels, the suggested dosage is usually 3,000 mg of EPA and DHA per day.
Feast on Flaxseed Oil
In addition to taking fish oil, it is also a good idea to take 1 Tbs. flaxseed oil per day The best way to consume flaxseed oil is by adding it to foods. Do not cook with it because it is easily damaged by heat and light -- add it to foods after they have been cooked, or use it as a salad dressing. You can also try dipping bread into it, adding it to hot or cold cereal, or spraying it over popcorn.
Dr. Michael T. Murray is one of the world's leading authorities on natural medicine and the author of more than 30 bestselling books, including The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine.
He is a graduate and former faculty member, and serves on the Board of Regents, of Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington.
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