Omega 3’s s- The Secret To Combating Inflammation

Omega-3 & Omega-6 fatty acids are essential to your body

In the 1960’s the landscape of the food industry changed dramatically. Processed foods and methods of mass production took over and new man-made chemicals were introduced into just about every food product. Much of this was led by the “low fat” craze of the 70‘s, 80‘s and 90‘s. Saturated fats were quickly replaced with polyunsaturated fats, trans fats and hydrogenated oils.





Many of us can probably remember the “I can’t believe it’s not butter commercials” featuring Fabio.

We’ll Fabio was right, it’s not butter; it was something much worse. At the same time livestock and dairy farmers were faced with the increased demands of a rapidly growing population and fierce competition. The solution was to add grains, fillers, chemicals, synthetic hormones and antibiotics to livestock diets.

The result was livestock that grew too much larger sizes and in record time. Nobody truly knew the implications of this new standard.  Were we unknowingly poisoning ourselves?


Inuit Health

At the same time Danish scientists were studying the Inuit population in Greenland. They were perplexed at the extremely low rates of heart disease considering the large amount of fat in the Inuit diet. Searching for an explanation, they drew labs and sent them back to Denmark. Results revealed that the Inuit population had astonishing levels of omega 3’s (70%) and omega 6’s (30%) in their diet. Danish researchers recognized that the ratio of omega 3‘s to omega 6’s in the Inuit diet was drastically different from their own blood levels and the diet of many Americans. In fact, it is common today to find omega-6 to omega-3 ratios of 20 to 1, if not 40 to 1, in many individuals.

Why is this an issue? 

Well let’s take a moment to review the difference between omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential, meaning they not produced in the body and therefore it is necessary that we obtain these nutrients through other sources; our diet

Omega-6 fatty acids are not bad, in fact they are necessary for our survival because of their pro inflammatory effects, but the key here is balance. Too much omega-6 fatty acids can lead to excess blood clotting, thickening of blood, constricted blood vessels, and inflammation in our organs and joints.

These nutrients can be found in most processed foods, grains, and plant oils such as sunflower, peanut, sesame, corn, seeds, and soybeans; as well as meats, fish and dairy products from grain fed animals. The problem is that the standard American diet is overwhelming high in omega-6 fatty acids.  So is it any wonder that many of today’s chronic medical conditions; metabolic syndrome, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, and autoimmune conditions all have one thing in common; inflammation?

Omega-3-pillsOmega-3 fatty acids are also considered essential

They promote relaxation and dilation of blood vessels, reduce blood clotting, and are anti-inflammatory.  They also maintain cell membrane fluidity and stability, development and function of brain and nerve tissue, oxygen transfer and energy production, immune function, and conversion of compounds involved in all body functions, including local hormones governing inflammatory responses.

Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is inversely associated with the incidence of many chronic diseases by inhibiting coagulation, promoting vasodilation, reducing inflammation and modifying lipid concentrations. Unfortunately, omega-3 fatty acids are not common in our diet due to many of the food production processes that have been initiated over the past several decades.

So what is the answer?

Unfortunately it’s not as easy as just taking two fish oil capsules a day.  Fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids are actually different from one another and there are three different types of omega- 3 fatty acids, all of which have different effects. Therefore, it is imperative that as a consumer, we have a solid understanding of these nuances before purchasing a fish oil supplement.

There are three types of omega 3’s:

  • alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  • eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

ALA is found in plant foods and vegetable oils such as flax-seed, canola oil, green vegetables, and walnuts. Although benefits have been proposed for ALA, the scientific evidence is less compelling, and the beneficial effects may be less pronounced than EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA appear to play the most significant role when it comes to anti-inflammation and cell structure.

EPA has been found to decrease the inflammatory response, lower triglyceride and blood fat levels, aid electrical activity, prevent blood clotting; reduce the risk of death, heart attack, dangerous abnormal heart rhythms, and strokes in people with known cardiovascular disease; slows the buildup of atherosclerotic plaques (“hardening of the arteries”), and lowers blood pressure slightly.  EPA also appears to aid in recovery of head trauma victims, promote optimal serotonin levels, and decrease depressive symptoms.

DHA, on the other hand, has been shown to have it’s greatest effects on cell structure, cell membranes in the brain, and cognition. Cell membranes are made of fat and connections between cells utilize these fats.  Omega 3’s and DHA offer more flexibility and better cell to cell communication. With the brain containing 60% fat it’s no wonder that DHA helps prevent dementia and cognitive decline.

There have also been studies indicating positive effects of both EPA and DHA  on ADHD, Asthma, Rheumatoid Arthritis, hormone levels and even Autism.

However, finding a supplement is not as easy as grabbing the first one you see. When searching for an omega-3 supplement be sure to turn the bottle over and look at it’s contents. Many supplements list 1,000 mg of omega 3’s on their front label, but what they don’t tell you is that EPA and DHA only make up a small percentage of the total omega 3’s.  As a consumer you want to look for fish oil supplements that contain higher amounts of EPA and DHA; around 700-750 mg combined per 1,000 mg of omega 3’s.

In addition, the latest research suggests that the ratio of EPA to DHA should be based upon your individual needs. For example, if you are pregnant, nursing, or have a small child you require higher amounts of DHA for cell structure and neural development. For everyone else, higher amounts of EPA versus DHA are recommended.

Here are a couple additional key items to pay attention to when purchasing an omega-3 supplement:omega-3

  • Look for a reputable brand.
  • Search for a company that is transparent about their manufacturing process and how they remove chemicals.
  • A transparent company will provide a batch or lot number.
  • A reputable product will allow you to obtain a toxicology report for your specific supplement.
  • Ask for third-party testing.
  • Look for products that list non solvent molecularly distilled.

Although supplements are beneficial and often recommended, diet is one of the best ways to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Food is medicine and you cannot expect to eat a poor diet and achieve optimal health by taking a few omega-3 capsules each day.  The standard diet is high in omega-6 fatty acids (inflammatory) which compete with omega-3 fatty acids within our cells. Therefore, it is essential to eat foods that are lower in omega 6’s and higher in omega 3’s.

Here are some suggestions for obtaining a higher omega-3 profile: 

  • Eat organic greens, beans, nuts and seeds
  • Choose healthier meats such as cows who are fed grass and wild caught salmon
  • Free-range chickens that are fed a natural diet of plants and insects
  • 12oz of fish per week
  • Less fast food and processed, mass-produced foods
  • Replace processed cereals with flax or oatmeal
  • Make your own salad dressings by mixing canola or olive oil with a little vinegar and herbs
  • Eat walnuts versus other nuts
  • If you must, choose potato chips fried in canola oil rather than cotton seed or soy oils
  • Make your own baked goods replacing butter with canola and olive oil
  • Avoid foods that contain trans fatty oils and hydrogenated oils

Changing your diet and taking an omega-3 supplement are great ways to improve your health and decrease inflammation. However, it is important to keep in mind that each individual metabolizes and therefore requires different levels of omega-3’s based on genetic specifications and lifestyle.

There are tests and trained professionals out there that can help you determine your unique needs. Remember, fat is healthy, and it’s ultimately up to you to make the right choices. To find out more information about omega-3 fatty acids and how you can achieve a healthy lifestyle click on the links in this blog and contact Vitali-T Medical Clinics.