Friday, September 30, 2022
Mitochondrial Health Optimal Health

8 Reasons Why You Need to Focus on Maximizing Omega 3s

When it comes to protecting your health, not all fats are created equal. At the top of the health pinnacle are the omega-3 fatty acids. By now, a lot of my readers have. absorbed the take-away message that it’s an excellent idea to get a regular dose by including couple of weekly servings of fish – preferably wild, pole-caught, responsibly-sourced – into their routines. But beyond that, the latest research is taking a deeper dive into just why the 3s are so good for us. What’s new in the world of omega 3s? Here’s what you need to know:

Omegas in a nutshell.

First, let’s start with the basics. Omega-3s are one member of the omega fatty acid family which also includes the omega-6s. All of them are polyunsaturated fats. All are considered essential fatty acids, that is, we need them to survive but our bodies don’t produce them so we have to consume them in our diet.

Omegas take action.

The omega-3s have an anti-inflammatory effect inside the body and the omega 6s, a pro-inflammatory effect. We need both types. Inflammation is the body’s first response to injury and infection so we can’t do without the 6s to quickly and briefly come to the repair rescue. The 3s then help put on the brakes on inflammation after it’s served its purpose.

But, as you may also know, it’s runaway inflammation that’s the prime driver of most of our serious, chronic diseases, including our biggest killer, heart disease – so too much of the 6s can spell trouble. The problem is that our modern Western diet is packed with omega 6s and deficient in 3s which goes a long way to explaining why our society’s levels of inflammation-driven conditions like heart disease, diabetes and auto-immune diseases are so high.

Tap into the power – and balance – of omega-3s.

So, keep in mind, when you eat wild salmon or sardines, you’re unleashing the power of omega-3s to help the body heal itself. Researchers have identified a class of molecules produced when the 3s are broken down inside the body, so-called specialized pro-resolving mediators, or SPMs. These SPMs help the immune system with its tricky balancing act – killing toxic invading microbes while limiting the damage done to the body itself. We’re just beginning to appreciate the role that omega-3s fats could play in dealing with the immune system overreaction that drives severe cases of COVID. They may well prove helpful in developing the COVID therapies of the future.

Another interesting and fairly recent development? The development of a blood test, the Omega-3 Index, which accurately measures blood levels of omega-3s .  Most often, I recommend these types of tests to my patients with inflammatory diseases, autoimmune disorders, or a family history of heart disease (or other risk factors). The results will help us develop a health supportive plan, which may include eating more omega-3-rich foods, or taking high-quality fish oil supplements or even pharmaceutical grade omega-3 supplements for more serious situations.

Think of omega-3s as your heart-health ally.

Omega-3 supplements are an excellent, health-supportive ally to have on your menu even if the research has not yet proved that fish oil supplements by themselves reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. Simply put, a good diet, high in omega-3, is still your best heart protection. But in either form, dietary or supplement, the 3s can lower triglycerides (remember, those high tri levels drive bad cardiac outcomes), keep a lid on blood clotting (a high platelet count increases the risk for heart vessel blockage), and reduce blood pressure. Three actions that love up your heart in all the right ways.

Good omega-3 levels correlate with longer life—so get yours.

The big picture is pretty clear. Last year, an analysis of the data from the famous Framingham heart study showed that omega-3 levels were as good, and sometimes better, predictor of mortality as traditional risk factors like smoking and diabetes. In other words, people who had high levels of omega 3s in their blood lived longer than those who didn’t!

Eating for your 3s.

According to some estimates, Americans may be consuming twenty times as muchomega-6 as omega-3. To bring that ratio back into balance (our ancestors likely ate roughly equal amounts of both), the first step is to boost your 3 consumption with fish (again, wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies) which have the highest concentrations of the types of omega-3 the body uses most efficiently, DHA and EPA. Plant foods like seeds, nuts and avocadoes mostly have the ALA form which the body doesn’t absorb so well so vegans and vegetarians should definitely go the fish oil supplement route.

Cool it with the 6s.

The second, and equally important step is to cut the crap – and by that we mean processed foods, as they’re all 6-heavy. Processed and junk foods are drenched in
industrially-processed oils, loaded full of chemicals, preservatives, pesticides and countless substances that should have no place in a healthy body. Restaurant meals, particularly fast foods, with less than stellar ingredients and industrial oils are common offenders as well – so cook for yourself as much as possible. Meat was traditionally a good source of 3s. Too bad a majority of Americans eat the industrial product which is high in 6s and low in 3s because the animals are grain-fed. Same goes for virtually all farmed salmon. To take in far fewer 6s, shop for the highest quality grass-fed, pasture-raised meats and wild, sustainably-fished, responsibly-sourced, oily fish. Think quality over quantity.

Omega 3s are good from head-to-toe, and in between.

Though omega 3’s are not a cure-all per se, they do offer a multitude of benefits that can help de-fang some of the ailments taking a bite out of your day-to-day, for example:

Your head: We may not understand why it works, but clinical studies have shown that an omega-3-rich diet can help with symptoms of depression and anxiety. It’s a promising line of research, so we say 3 cheers for the 3s!

Your menstrual belly: Omega-3s can reduce the pain of menstrual cramps considerably, the theory being, by inhibiting the production of the pain-escalating, inflammatory prostaglandins. Many patients tell me they manage menstrual pain quite effectively with omega-3 supplements, an observation borne out by a small study, in which the supplements outperformed ibuprofen, head-to-head.

Your hot flashes: Managing menopause with omega-3 supplements has been shown to reduce hot flashes as well as the mild depressive symptoms that can sometimes accompany menopause. Not only do the supplements have an anti-inflammatory effect, they may also help regulate sex hormone levels.

Your eyes: Your eyes are rich in fat, especially DHA, so it stands to reason that upping your healthy fat consumption is good eye health insurance. In one study, people with macular degeneration, a common cause of blindness, had, on average, low levels of omega 3.

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