GO FISH! OMEGA NUTRITION
Food is always first priority before adding supplements. Sleep, exercise and recovery are also paramount. After addressing these areas as best as you can, you might want to consider supplements.
When considering supplementation, one cost effective and easy addition to a complete healthy nutrition plan, is to add some Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), such as fish oil or flaxseed oil.
EFAs are critical for:
the development of cells and their membranes;
they help to support the brain;
support the nervous system;
support a healthy immune system;
they are also used in the body for healthy hormone function.
They are called essential because the body requires fatty acids, but it cannot manufacture them. The fatty acides must therefore come from exogenous sources, i.e. our diet.
By not having enough EFAs, there can be serious consequences: low levels can lead to poor memory, mood swings, poor hair and skin, and even dementia !
This article describes each of the Omegas (a type of EFA), their functions, and why you might want to consider supplementing your diet with them.
There are two types of Omega 3 that get the most attention in research and that we should aim to include in our diet: DHA and EHA.
These can be sourced from oily fish such as salmon, blue cod, mackerel, from eggs, and from fish oil supplements . Unfortunately levels of Omega 3 can be lacking in many industrially-farmed fish. It is for this reason that despite many people trying to achieve optimal nutrition through their diet, might be unwittingly missing out on the associated benefits of this potent EFA .
DHA: Docosahexaenoic acid
There are numerous benefits of DHA in supporting the brain, memory, and mood. It has been shown that this Omega 3 can specifically keep the brain sharp: assisting memory and the ability to learn. It also supports the functions of the brain, eyes, immune system, and the nervous system [4-6].
EHA: Eicosapentaenoic acid
This specifically benefits joint health, cardiovascular systems, and has anti-inflammatory properties; it can even encourage a better metabolic rate! EHA is also something that is recommended for people with various forms of arthritis to decrease inflammation. EHA has also been shown to support mood regulation [7-10].
ALA: Alpha linoleic
ALA is quite different from the above variants of Omega 3 since you get it mainly from plant sources like walnuts and flaxseed. ALA is a fantastic antioxidant and appears to be useful in insulin sensitivity: in fact it has been advocated for use in assisting in treatment of metabolic syndrome. Lack of ALA can cause a weakened immune system and a loss of strength in muscles.
One of the beneficial Omega 6 EFAs is ‘GLA’ or Gamma Linolenic Acid. It is involved in keeping our skin hydrated, and can reduce mood swings. It is also part of a hormone-like substance involved in the metabolism of prostaglandins, and therefore can assist in reducing symptoms of menstrual cramps.
Some of the other forms of Omega 6 have developed a bad press, since they are the result of the refinement and processing of junk foods (where they are abundant), and are responsible for triggering systemic inflammation .
This is the easiest Omega to obtain from the diet but is crucial nonetheless, since it is responsible for assisting in the absorption of all of the other Omegas! It also encourages maintenance of normal blood pressure and regulate cholesterol: a diet that is rich in Omega 9 (such as the so-called Mediterranean diet) tends to be associated with lower prevalence of degenerative and chronic illnesses such as Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) [4, 12, 13]
Summary: Omega 3, 6 and 9 represent potent and beneficial additions to a person’s diet. To increase your intake: invest in a good fish oil supplement for your omegas, and for ALA specifically, invest in a flaxseed supplement. Look for one with high bioavailability, and one that has high potency (so that you are not taking lots of tablets unnecessarily). You should also look for one that is encapsulated well so that you do not have to contend with ‘fish breath’.
One more point: Did you know that researchers have found that the best way to increase the absorption of omega 3, 6 and 9 is to take the fish oil supplement with fish/ avocados/ nuts or another naturally good fatty food. The reason is that the profile of the oil and fats assists the body to absorb the Omegas better (Sourcehttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1826985). DO TRY THIS AT HOME: Have your EFA tablets with a food containing good fats and boost the benefit for your buck!
1. Caramia, G., [Omega-3: from cod-liver oil to nutrigenomics]. Minerva Pediatr, 2008. 60(4): p. 443-55.
2. Pilon, G., et al., Differential effects of various fish proteins in altering body weight, adiposity, inflammatory status, and insulin sensitivity in high-fat-fed rats. Metabolism, 2011. 60(8): p. 1122-30.
3. Young, K., Omega-6 (n-6) and omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids in tilapia and human health: a review. Int J Food Sci Nutr, 2009. 60 Suppl 5: p. 203-11.
4. Abeywardena, M.Y. and G.S. Patten, Role of omega3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in reducing cardio-metabolic risk factors. Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets, 2011. 11(3): p. 232-46.
5. Arrington, J.L., et al., Docosahexaenoic acid suppresses function of the CD28 costimulatory membrane receptor in primary murine and Jurkat T cells. J Nutr, 2001. 131(4): p. 1147-53.
6. Azizi-Soleiman, F., et al., Effects of pure eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids on oxidative stress, inflammation and body fat mass in patients with type 2 diabetes. Int J Prev Med, 2013. 4(8): p. 922-8.
7. Alfano, C.M., et al., Fatigue, inflammation, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid intake among breast cancer survivors. J Clin Oncol, 2012. 30(12): p. 1280-7.
8. Antalis, C.J., et al., Omega-3 fatty acid status in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids, 2006. 75(4-5): p. 299-308.
9. Donev, R. and J. Thome, Inflammation: good or bad for ADHD? Atten Defic Hyperact Disord, 2010. 2(4): p. 257-66.
10. Engler, M.M. and M.B. Engler, Omega-3 fatty acids: role in cardiovascular health and disease. J Cardiovasc Nurs, 2006. 21(1): p. 17-24, quiz 25-6.
11. Jones, P.J., et al., Fish-oil esters of plant sterols differ from vegetable-oil sterol esters in triglycerides lowering, carotenoid bioavailability and impact on plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) concentrations in hypercholesterolemic subjects. Lipids Health Dis, 2007. 6: p. 28.
12. Anton, S.D., et al., Differential effects of adulterated versus unadulterated forms of linoleic acid on cardiovascular health. J Integr Med, 2013. 11(1): p. 2-10.
13. Bjermo, H., et al., Effects of n-6 PUFAs compared with SFAs on liver fat, lipoproteins, and inflammation in abdominal obesity: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr, 2012. 95(5): p. 1003-12.