Monday, January 7, 2008
Omega 3's in Fish Oil
EFA DHA EPA GLA... most people know Essential Fatty Acids are important but they don't know why. EFA's (Essential Fatty Acids) are fatty acids that our body needs to function that we need to get in our diet.
DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is one type of Omega 3 fatty acid that is crucial for BRAIN DEVELOPMENT. It is found in breastmilk and is now added to formula.
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) is another type of Omega 3 fatty acid that is crucial for BRAIN FUNCTION it is found in breastmilk, fatty fish and algae.
The most important thing to know about EPA and DHA is you need to get them in your diet--your body can't produce and they are essential. You can get them in your diet through fish or fish oil. There are some food sources for Omega 3's-- flax, walnuts, but these contain ALA (alpa-linolenic acid) which doesn't have the same health benefits as EPA . The problem is in order to get EPA and DHA through flax seeds, walnuts and soybean your body needs to convert these foods to EPA and DHA. Many people are deficient in the enzyme needed for the conversion, so you might be getting flax, but still end up deficient in EFAs. Also, a lot of processed food, age and stress can interfere with the fragile D6D enzyme needed for conversion of non fish food to DHA and EPA. If you eat fish or take fish oil, then you will be sure to get the fatty acids needed for brain function.
Every fish oil supplement has a ratio of EPA to DHA. The research indicates that fish oil which contains more EPA is more important for neuropsychiatric disorders (depression, ADD, autism etc.) According to Dr. Stoll at Harvard Medical School presented at a lecture on Omega-3 Fatty Acids*** in 2005. "Omega-3s, in controlled studies, have been shown to be helpful in EVERY neuropsychiatric disorder tested to date." And a study in Australia suggests patients at risk for schizophrenia may benefit from fish oil in the early stages of the disease than in the later stages. This information suggests that treatment with fish oil might be most beneficial and preventative at the early stages of other neuropsychiatric diseases such as ADD, depression and autism.
Interestingly, the largest trial of fish oil was launched in the United Kingdom in 2006 when 5,000 schoolchildren were offered fish oil supplements after the preliminary trials results showed staggering benefits in learning for the children. In one school even the football team benefited from the supplements.
What is important for people to understand, is that fish oil isn't magic. It is that the modern, processed diet is deficient in crucial Omega 3's and fish oil corrects these deficiencies. The real problem is the modern convenient grain based diet is too high in Omega 6's. And a balance between Omega 3's and Omega 6's is critical for our bodies to function.
The meat and milk of pasture fed animals are high in Omega 3's (EPA and DHA) but modern agriculture methods mean that cows and chickens are no longer eating grass, instead, they are eating grain so their meat and milk becomes high in Omega 6's. So unless you are eating a lot of organic pasture fed meat, you need a to consider fish oil supplements. And at this point, even the farmed fish are being fed grain (not algae) so they don't contain the Omega 3's they used to contain and research continues to suggest high quality fish oil is safer than fish.
So until we fix our food supply, a high quality fish oil like Nordic Natural is something to consider. See my vitamin blog for more info on which fish oil we use.
(you need to cut and paste this to get a pdf of lecture presented by Andrew Stoll, M.D. from the Harvard Medical School--link doesn't work because it is a pdf)