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Fatty Acids Omega3

What are the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids?

Deficiency in Omega-3 fatty acids is now considered widespread in the US and other developed countries, leading to a variety of poor health outcomes (also a result of an excess of Omega-6s). Not all Omega-3 fatty acids are the same in known health benefits. Together, however, I call them part of my “nutritional armor” for inside cellular protection against aging and disease with a critical role in military performance. There are 3 main dietary Omega-3s called ALA, EPA, and DHA which are all polyunsaturated essential fatty acids. For your own health, it is wise to understand the differences in these three Omega-3 fatty acids because they are often marketed under the same “Omega-3” umbrella. Omega-3 ALA comes from certain plants and seeds like flax, chia seeds and almonds. Diets rich in Omega-3 ALA sources (like Mediterranean diets) appear to reduce your risk for heart disease and heart attacks. So Omega-3 ALA seems to “Assist” in eliminating disease. The other two, Omega-3 EPA/DHA come from marine sources like fish and fish oil and have much more direct scientific evidence for even more widespread benefits that include organs such as the brain (see below). I call these the “wellness molecules of life.” The brain requires more Omega-3 EPA/DHA than any other organ. EPA seems to provide functional benefits to cells and DHA plays more of the structural role. To remember these Omega-3s, EPA/DHA, you can use the phrase, “E-and-D-Omega-3s-Eliminate-Disease.” There are drugs now based on Omega-3 EPA/DHA from fish oil. DHA, a critical component of brain health, is also available alone in algae based products. A recent study released showed that if Americans simply consumed more of Omega-3 EPA/DHA, 84,000 lives would be saved per year!
“Womb to Tomb” benefits of Omega-3 EPA/DHA:
1) Pregnancy and breastfeeding—improves brain development, child’s IQ, and post partum depression.
2) Childhood—learning ability, reading and writing and coordination, depression, ADHD, behavioral problems
3) Elderly—improves cognition and possibly memory problems such as dementia/Alzheimer’s
Summary of Specific Omega-3 EPA/DHA benefits
1) Reduces risk of heart attack and death, stabilizes heartbeat, reduces risk of stroke
2) Lowers triglycerides (risk factor for heart disease)
3) Effective for depression, anxiety, memory, learning
4) Decreases inflammation/arthritis, helps with Ulcerative Colitis/Crohns
5) Improves bone mass/osteoporosis

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Can omega-3s help prevent post-partum depression?

Depression during pregnancy is estimated to occur in 10-20% of women and is associated with adverse outcomes for both the mother and child. Although depression during pregnancy is relatively common in Western countries, researchers at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD have found that in other countries with a high seafood intake, depression during and after pregnancy is virtually non-existent while it is more common in those with lower seafood intake. Other research indicates that high seafood intake during pregnancy and after delivery is also associated with healthier children who have better IQ scores, as well as behavioral and communication skills. Seafood is high in Omega-3 EPA/DHA (flax, while high in Omega-3, is in the form of ALA not EPA/DHA).
Mothers may become depleted of critical Omega-3s called EPA/DHA found in seafood and fish oil because the fetus receives them preferentially for neurological development from mom (even while breastfeeding); therefore this can leave mom with a deficiency of these Omega-3s. Omega-3 EPA/DHA deficiency has been associated with an increased risk of depression. We know that the Western diet is already deficient in these so moms may have little reserve when the need for Omega-3 EPA/DHA climb during and after pregnancy and therefore possibly leaving them more susceptible to post-partum depression.
Regular (2-4 times per week) consumption of Omega-3 EPA/DHA (especially in seafood) has major public health consequences that can benefit the mother, improve the chances of a safe delivery of the fetus, and the overall health of the newborn child. More studies will determine if fish oil alone in supplement form can replicate the same benefits as seafood consumption seems to have throughout pregnancy. Other fish oil supplement trials in depression (not necessarily post-partum) seem very promising.

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How do omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation?

Background: Not all Omega-3s are the same. Fish oil (and seafood) contains two critical Omega-3s called EPA and DHA which promote a multitude of health benefits that enhance the quality of life and reduce the risk of premature death. EPA and DHA seem to have distinct and unique roles in the body. Algae based supplements (not from fish) and many infant formulas currently contain only DHA. Both are often marketed under the umbrella “Omega-3” so be sure to read the fine print for what omega-3s they contain (eg EPA and DHA or DHA alone).
Fish Oil supplements = EPA + DHA
Algae supplements = DHA alone
So which Omega-3 really fights inflammation?…and the winner is….
Research supports that EPA, found in fish oil, is the key anti-inflammatory. EPA regulates the effects of Omega-6s in the body and reduces the associated inflammatory disease risks including heart attacks (inflammation in vessels) and arthritis (inflammation in joints). DHA is critically important for visual and brain development but less so as an anti-inflammatory.
EPA produces anti-inflammtory hormones that counteract those produced by Omega-6s which are far too high in our diet and body. Even certain auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis have shown to benefit from regular fish oil consumption as a result of the high EPA concentrations. When specifically trying to reduce inflammation, be sure to read the nutrition facts labels and pick a high EPA:DHA ratio product in the range of 2:1 EPA to DHA.
My Recommendation: I personally like to see a high EPA:DHA ratio of at least 400mg of EPA and 200mg of DHA per 1 gram of fish oil when using it to combat inflammation in patients, athletes, and soldiers. (I use fish oil for various reasons and pick EPA and DHA ratios to fit the condition). So, being aware of your EPA/DHA levels in supplements might can help target certain conditions or personal needs. But remember, lower your Omega-6 intake as well to really maximize the benefits of the Omega-3s.

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