Omega-3- Expert advice and tips - Blog
Fish have been consumed for many years and the health benefits have been known for a long time. Traditionally this was based on its excellent protein quality and available micronutrients. It is only in the last 30 years, that science and research have shown that the predominant health benefits of fish come from the natural fish oil. Fish oil is unique because it contains a high concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids which are popularly known as omega-3.
The two main fatty acids of interest are known as EPA and DHA. These fatty acids are present in other foods but only in very small amounts. The omega-3 fatty acid Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) found in some vegetable oils does not have the same health benefits as EPA and DHA.
Official recommendations of how much of long chain omega-3 we should consume on a daily basis vary from 200 mg to 1 gram (g) per day. A well known and respected Professor of Nutrition, Philip Calder, has recently reported that we need at least 1 g per day to achieve any marked beneficial effects. The uptake of these fatty acids is measured by analysing one’s blood.
It has been shown in clinical research that an increase in the omega-3 content of your blood leads to a reduced risk of heart disease.
Other reported beneficial effects include:
• Alleviating arthritis
• Reducing inflammation
• Mental health – combating depression
• Eye health
• Calcium uptake in the body
Interestingly the US army have been looking at omega-3 supplementation to alleviate depression in their troops and they are also investigating the beneficial effects in healing trauma to the brain caused by explosives or shrapnel. It is rumoured that the US Senator, Gifford, who was recently shot in the head, was treated with omega-3 to speed her recovery.
Fish or supplements?
In clinical experiments, both have been shown to be equally effective in raising omega-3 levels in blood. The high quality white fish we normally consume in Australasia is low in oil content and hence low in omega-3. Snapper and Terakihi contain about 0.3 g omega-3 in a 100 g portion so whilst adequate for nutrition, this amount is not high enough for any beneficial therapeutic effects.
Oily fish in New Zealand such as king salmon are good sources of omega-3 if consumed regularly. Two servings of 120g of salmon per week is the equivalent of 800mg omega-3 per day. For most families it is hard to guarantee consuming an adequate amount of omega-3 solely from eating fish. This is why we should probably take supplements of omega-3 to ensure we are obtaining the optimal health benefits of EPA and DHA.
What to look for in a supplement.
Select supplements containing at least 600 mg of total omega-3 per 1 g soft gel capsule taken at least twice per day. On taking the capsule there should be no offensive fishy taste and there should be no reflux/repetition later on. It is a good idea to consume fat soluble antioxidants such as vitamins A and E together with the omega-3.
Dr. Laurence Eyres Chairman NZIC Oils and Fats Specialist Group
About the Author
We use a variety of authors from both naturopathic and medical backgrounds. We also have in house researchers that compile the latest information into an easily digestible format.
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