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Improve your Health with Omega-3 Fatty Acids!

01. April 2012

For years, I embraced every new food fad… until it fizzled!  Remember the 90’s? And the joy of soy?  It seemed as though everything was fortified with the power-packed protein.  From the buzz over bran to the hype over goji berries…we love nutrition news.  It’s just too bad we don’t take it all with a grain of salt!

How about all the super supplement news that has us mega-dosing on an alphabet soup of vitamins – only to learn you can get too much of a good thing?  The latest studies suggest many popular supplements may just be a waste of money.

That said, there is one bit of nutrition advice I’ve stuck with for more than a decade. And I’m glad I did.  Health experts have long extolled the virtues of eating fish a couple of days a week in order to get omega-3 fatty acids and their important health benefits.   I’ve done my best, but have never been an avid fan of fish.  Thanks to my doctor’s prompting, I’ve been “supplementing” my occasional salmon fillet with a regular regimen of omega-rich fish oil capsules.

The buzz over fish oil doesn’t seem to be fading and for good reason.  While omega-3’s are most famous for heart health benefits, but they’re also linked to relieving depression, attention deficit disorder, arthritis pain, asthma and Crohn’s disease.  They may also reduce the risk of certain cancers, dementia and the sight-robbing macular degeneration.

What’s key is the oil’s ability to reduce inflammation, especially in the joints, blood vessels and brain.  Research continues, but experts say there’s enough evidence to recommend that most of us increase our daily intake.

How much?  Well, there are no federal guidelines, but the American Heart Association and Institute of Medicine recommend 1,100 milligrams for women and 1,600 milligrams for men daily.  They advise the combined fatty acids DHA and EPA.

Food sources include wild salmon, tuna, trout and sardines.  Walnuts and ground flaxseeds (I toss ‘em into cereal or a smoothie) are an excellent source of fatty acids –called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).  You’ll also find ALA’s in certain leafy greens and legumes.

But if you want to be sure everything’s ok with your omegas, fish oil supplements are the way to go.  The feds don’t regulate supplements so look for known brands that are verified by independent labs such as UOP (united State Pharmacopeial Convention) for purity, potency and quality.  (Tom and I both use “LJI Omega Max” from the La Jolla Institute of Comprehensive Medicine.)

And take only what’s recommended.  More is not better.  In fact, taking too much omega fatty acid can lead to bleeding, especially if you’re on a blood thinner.

Algae and Krill oil supplements are becoming an increasingly popular source of omega-3’s for vegetarians.  To this point, research is lacking on their health benefits. The data just isn’t available – yet.

The bottom line?  You won’t find fatty acids on the food fad list any time soon.  From fish or convenient capsules, make sure you get your omega 3’s.

 

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.