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Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Power Nutrients for Women
by Keri Marshall, MS, ND

May is National Women's Health Month, making it a perfect time to educate women from all walks of life on how to stay healthy. Women have unique physiological needs that change with each stage of life. Childhood, adolescence, childbearing years, and menopause each create specific nutritional demands on a woman's body. Fortunately, there are several preventive steps women can take throughout their lives that can have lasting benefit. These steps include eating a balanced diet, which involves getting enough of the proper types of fat.

Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) are arguably the most important nutrients missing from a woman's diet. EFAs are considered essential because they are required for good health, yet cannot be produced by the body, thus must be obtained through diet. EFAs are constituents of membranes in every cell of the human body. They are also precursors of locally produced hormones and eicosanoids (fatty acids), which are important in the prevention and treatment of various diseases, especially in women.

Humans evolved consuming a diet with approximately equal amounts of omega-3s (anti-inflammatory vasodilator eicosanoids) and omega-6s (pro-inflammatory vasoconstrictor eicosanoids). Over the past 100 years, however, there has been an enormous increase in omega-6 consumption in the Western diet, resulting in a pro-inflammatory physiological state. Studies indicate that a high intake of omega-6 from vegetable oils and a relative deficiency of omega-3s from fish oils shifts the physiological state to one that induces clots and platelet aggregation, and is characterized by increases in blood viscosity (stickiness) as well as spasms in and contraction of blood vessels; all of which ultimately reduce blood flow to the heart and other major organs. Further research correlates conditions, such as painful menstrual cycle, postpartum depression, menopausal problems, postmenopausal osteoporosis, and breast cancer, to deficiencies in omega-3 EFAs. Increased intake of omega-3s from fish oil supports the body's natural anti-inflammatory response and can improve symptoms like these that result from a pro-inflammatory physiological state.

Inadequate intake of EFAs can also lead to dry skin, eczema, dermatitis, and premature wrinkling. Research shows that EFAs, including EPA and DHA from fish oil and GLA from borage and evening primrose oil, are important for supporting beautiful, radiant skin, hair, and nails. Supplementation with a fish oil-GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) blend, such as Omega Woman from Nordic Naturals

, is a healthy way to provide optimal intake of EFAs that help maintain smooth and youthful skin. In addition, evening primrose oil (EPO) is known for alleviating vasomotor symptoms, such as hot flashes, which are associated with menopause. EPO, at a dose of 1500 mg a day, has been shown to reduce cyclic breast pain that may occur with fibrocystic breasts or during peri-menopause.

Omega-3 fats also have powerful effects on supporting healthy triglyceride levels, which protect against cardiovascular disease. This is especially important for women taking hormone therapy, which can significantly increase triglyceride levels. Two soft gels of Nordic Naturals', Ultimate Omega provide the American Heart Association's recommended amount of EPA and DHA to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and maintain normal triglyceride levels.

The quality of a fish oil is particularly important. Choose fish oil that has been tested and shown to have no detectable levels of environmental contaminants technique that protects the oil from oxidation. Carefully processed fish oil maintains its freshness, which results in an exceptionally great tasting fish oil that is easy to take daily.

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