A Lifetime of Benefits from Omega-3s
By Debbie Drecksel, Nordic Naturals Educator
From the prenatal stage throughout adulthood, omega- 3s are essential to acquire and maintain optimal health. An abundance of research shows that omega-3s have many benefits and can help improve our health and well-being. The two main omega-3s we hear most about are the long-chain fatty acids, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
DHA is a critical component of brain cell structure and is essential to the growth and functional development of the brain. EPA is crucial to cognitive development, brain function, and it reduces cellular inflammation. DHA and EPA work together in the brain to help neurons rapidly communicate with each other. Omega-3s have been shown to support cardiovascular health, maintain cholesterol levels, promote brain function, positively affect learning and behavior, and so much more.
Omega-3s: Prenatal to Childhood
From the beginning of life, omega-3s begin to have an impactful affect on us. DHA is generally known as the most important omega-3 during pregnancy because it is a critical building block of the brain, retina, and nervous system. A growing number of studies in both human infants and animals show a correlation between omega-3 intake and overall brain development, cognitive function, and visual capabilities.
The early stages of a child's life are vitally important in establishing healthy foundations in the brain and the development of vision. Within the first year of life, senses and motor skills develop rapidly and a baby's brain doubles in size. Babies go from blurry, shallow 8-to-10-inch depth vision, to 3-D, color vision, to fairly developed eyehand- foot-body coordination, just within the first year of life! This requires a lot of brain power and omega-3s can help support this developmental progress.
During brain development, billions of brain cells called neurons produce electrical signals and chemical reactions that allow cells to communicate with each other. The early years of a child's life are the most active in establishing neuronal or brain connections and this dynamic process continues throughout our lifetime. The connections children form provide the foundation to develop future connections. Also, omega-3 supplementation has been linked to boosting babies' immune systems and helping to protect against colds. Low DHA brain levels have been associated with anxiety, aggression, and depression in children.
Beyond childhood, omega-3 supplementation continues to be extremely important. After building a great foundation during the infant and early childhood years, it must be maintained throughout life in order for us to sustain optimal brain function.
In addition to needing omega-3s to maintain optimal brain and cognitive function into adulthood, omega-3s also support heart, joint, eye, skin, hair, and immune system health. Omega-3s have also been shown to support optimal fat metabolism and body composition.
However, many of us are deficient in EPA and DHA omega-3s. Our bodies do not make EPA and DHA efficiently; therefore, we must consume these fats through our diets and supplementation. The best direct source of EPA and DHA is cold-water, oily fish, but the average American diet does not include enough of these fish to reach the optimal levels we require.
We need adequate amounts of EPA and DHA to modulate cellular stress and protect against cellular rigidity, both of which support our overall health and well-being. Our bodies use these precious fats everyday in response to our environment and once used, they need to be replaced. Think of the cell membrane as our body's bank account of fat. Much like your regular bank account, when you make too many withdrawals and not enough deposits your bank account can become depleted. The same is true for our body; it requires an ample amount of omega- 3s in order to sustain our overall health.
Choosing the Right Fish Oil
Not all fish oil is created equal. When seeking a high-quality fish oil you should look for four features that are particularly important: freshness, purity, potency, and form.
Making sure your fish oil supplement is fresh is important for taste and product efficacy. The primary reason people resist taking fish oil is fear of unpleasant taste and aftertaste. Test your fish oil capsules for freshness by biting into them! Clean fish oil is also critical. Fish oil must be purified to eliminate trace amounts of heavy metals, pesticides, and PCBs. A third-party product analysis should validate both purity and freshness of the fish oil.
Potency is another key factor. How much omega-3 one needs depends on the individual's unique nutritional requirements. To understand how much EPA and DHA are provided in the product you must read the amounts of EPA and DHA on the back of the label—not the total omega-3 count on the front. Finally, try to find supplements in triglyceride form, particularly when selecting a concentrate. Many concentrates are in an ethyl ester form, a form which is rarely found in nature.
Nordic Naturals' Fish Oil
Nordic Naturals offers a wide variety of products that provide a purified, sustainable source of omega-3s. For those needing an ultra-concentrated source of omega-3s, Nordic Naturals' Ultimate Omega 2x offers 1125 mg of EPA and 875 mg of DHA conveniently found in only two soft gels. Ultimate Omega 2x offers the highest concentration of triglyceride-form omega-3 fish oil.
Our brains require omega-3 fatty acids to function effectively. Healthy brain connections start with healthy structures and the best way to build those structures is with omega-3s. Throughout our lifetime, omega-3s EPA and DHA are extremely beneficial and help us maintain optimal brain function as well as promote health and well-being. Nordic Naturals' fish oils are the perfect nutritional supplement to compliment any healthy lifestyle regimen. So make sure you give your brain a lifetime of benefits with omega-3 fish oils!