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Reelin' in the Omega-3s
BY JOLIE MARTIN ROOT, L.N.C.

Fish oil. It's no longer the foul tasting oil of your youth. Not only do high-quality fish oils smell and taste good, they provide the nutrients, thus health, the body craves—literally!

The nutrients in question are the Omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Extensive research connects DHA and EPA deficiencies to heart disease; brain disorders, such as ADHD and Alzheimer's; diabetes; stroke; depression; arthritis; allergies; circulation problems; skin disorders; and gout just to name a few. By simply adding high quality fish oil to your health regime, you can vastly improve the health of your eyes, skin, digestive and immune systems, joints, and especially your heart and brain.

This begs the question, "If DHA and EPA nutrients are so essential, why are they so hard to get?" Partly because of the fact that neither nutrient is manufactured in the body, so we must rely on food or supplementation as sources.

Fifty or 60 years ago this wouldn't have been a problem. However, our highly processed Western diet has drastically changed America's nutritional landscape. The use of vegetable oils in processed foods caused an enormous increase in Omega-6 fatty acid consumption, elevating the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio from its ideal 1:1 to an estimated 20:1. In some cases, it's even as high as 50:1.

This severely imbalanced EFA ratio can have detrimental health effects because Omega-6s need Omega-3s to provide balanced bodily support. For example, Omega-3s can reduce inflammation, while Omega-6s may increase inflammation. Omega-3s can prevent excessive blood clotting, while Omega-6s may promote clotting. Omega-3s can moderate immune system reactions, while Omega-6s may often make it over-react. So you can see how an imbalanced intake can create imbalance in the body, leading to disease.

On a positive note, however, it's easy to boost your Omega-3 intake with dietary supplements.Making a choice will be easier if you understand the difference between the three different sources of Omega-3: flaxseed oil, marine algae, and fish oil.
  • Flaxseed oil contains another version of Omega-3s, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), but no EPA and DHA. The benefits that fish oil provide the cardiovascular and nervous systems may not be derived from ALA unless the body converts it to EPA and DHA. However, the body can only do so using an enzyme, one that not all people produce. If that enzyme is not present, then the ALA-to-EPA/DHA conversion may be compromised, if not simply impossible.
  • Marine algae sources produce only DHA, but no EPA.
  • Cold-water marine fish contains both DHA and EPA and does so in high concentrations.
This conclusively makes the latter the best choice. Because of the high levels of toxins found in some fish, however, fish oil supplementation may be the safest way to consume Omega-3s.

Safe and beneficial! In regard to cardiovascular disease, the benefits of Omega-3s are so well understood and accepted that the American Heart Association published statements recommending increased fish intake and/or the use of fish oil supplements. One study even showed that the Omega-3s in fish oils cut your risk of sudden death from heart disease in half.

Also high levels of the DHA are found in the more active areas of the brain, including the cerebral cortex, mitochondria, synaptosomes, and synaptic vesicles. At least one epidemiologic study has shown that patients with Alzheimer's disease have significantly lower levels of Omega-3s than healthy seniors. Researchers report that older people can reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer's by increasing their intake of fish and fish oil (DHA).

Omega-3s from fish oil are also a great choice for optimal nutrition during pregnancy, not only for fetal development, but for the mother as well. DHA is the most abundant Omega-3 long-chain fatty acid in breast milk and studies show that breast-fed babies have IQ advantages over babies fed formula lacking DHA. Research also shows a link between a mother's DHA intake and postpartum depression. By adding DHA to your diet, you can significantly decrease its effects.

OTHER BENEFITS INCLUDE
  • Protection against symptoms of hay fever, sinus infections, asthma, food allergies, and allergic skin conditions, such as hives and eczema
  • Inhibition of the production of the inflammatory compounds related to psoriasis and improvement of the health of skin, nails, and hair
  • Reduction in insulin resistance
  • Improvement of immune function (research links the intake of fish oil to a lowered risk of breast and prostate cancers)
  • Lowered risk of age-related macular degeneration—an eye condition which is the leading cause of severe visual loss in people over age 50
  • An anti-inflammatory effect on inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease)
When selecting a supplement, choose a product that delivers a high concentration of DHA and EPA per serving. Finally, be sure to look for oils that are clean. Fish oils from Carlson Labs are from cold water fish found in the clean, deep waters of the Norwegian region. The oils are tested for mercury, cadmium, lead, PCBs, and 28 other contaminants by an FDA-registered laboratory. Formula variations include refreshingly pleasant lemontasting liquid oils and easy-to-swallow gel capsules. So if you commit to making just one improvement to your health regime, then adding Carlson Labs fish oil is an essential choice your body will appreciate.


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