The ABC's of Omega-3s
Most people probably haven’t considered that the path to a more fulfilling and healthy life might start with fish oils, but the facts are hard to ignore - omega-3s have a powerful ability to help boost overall health and wellness, with benefits ranging from improvements in cardiovascular and heart health, cognitive function, mood, immune system support, and so much more.
In fact, omega-3 fatty acids are theorized to have played an essential role in human evolution; genetic research suggests that the consumption of huge amounts of fish might be the underlying reason behind modern man’s appearance some 150,000 years ago, as the omega-3 fats found in fish oils helped to develop the brain structure and power our species needed to flourish. Fish oils have also been historically recognized for their health benefits - it has been used for nearly 200 years as a treatment for arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory properties, for instance. Today, with some significant improvements in purification and concentration, Omega-3 oils are one of the most powerful corrective and preventative supplements available.
Unfortunately, Omega 3s are often given a bad name by being erroneously lumped in with less healthy fats (such as saturated and trans fats) due to the popular misconception that “all fat is bad fat”. The reality, however, is that healthy fats are an essential component of human nutrition as they maintain cell structure, deliver fat-soluble vitamins, help to regulate hormones, and maintain the suppleness of our skin
So what exactly are these healthy fats?
These healthy fats consist of polyunsaturated fats, or as they are more commonly known omega fatty acids. In the human body, omega-6 and omega-3 are the two essential fatty acids. Though these may sound similar, they differ in their structure and their effect on the body. Omega 6 fatty acids are found in food sources like dairy, eggs, meat, vegetable oils, and nuts. These fatty acids have an impact on arachidonic acid (AA), which helps to mediate inflammation and play a vital role in the production of “bad eicosanoids” (hormones). This means that omega 6 is responsible for inflammation and blood clotting processes, both of which are necessary and beneficial in certain amounts, but only when they are balanced with an appropriate amount of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are responsible for the production of “good eicosanoids”, which help to properly regulate the amount of AA, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein (also known as “bad cholesterol”) levels in the body. They play a crucial role in the regulation of inflammation and the prevention of excessive blood clotting. Ideally, both of these omega fatty acids live symbiotically in a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio. Unfortunately, this is not how it usually plays out, as a typical Western diet has us ingesting Omega-6 and Omega-3 at a ratio of up to 20:1.
Where to go from here
The good news is that you can start correcting this ratio imbalance by reducing your overall intake of Omega 6 fatty acids and consuming more omega 3 fatty acids - but doing this through diet alterations alone is not always sufficient, as even if you consume fish meals 3 times a week, you will still only be getting a total of 250 to 500 mg of EPA and DHA per week. This is due to the fact that when eating fish, it is mostly the muscle that is consumed, which isn’t especially high in essential fatty acids. Therefore, one of the simplest and most effective ways to correct an omega-6 to omega-3 imbalance is to supplement with potent, high-quality fish oil with a concentration of at least 4,000 mg of EPA and DHA per serving.