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ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS


Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) are necessary for growth, development hormones, immunity and vision but whilst they are essential for these important functions our bodies cannot actually make them, in other words - they have to be obtained from our food sources. The two main types of EFA are Omega 3 and Omega 6 and the outstanding difference is that Omega 3 is more derived from fish sources and Omega 6 is more commonly derived from plant sources.

OMEGA 3

Historically the consumption of fish in our ancestors diet was as much as a 1:1 ratio, they lived near the ocean and there was some component of fish in every meal.  These days our recommended aim is somewhere from 2:1 to 4:1 whereas our actual consumption is documented as 20:1.  The reasoning for these statistics vary from the distance that some people live from the ocean, in our case outback Australia to the actual price of fish, the cost is out of the reach of a lot of everyday people these days.  Statistically people such as the Eskimos, Japanese and Alaskans have less heart disease which has been largely attributed to the amount of fish they consume.

Omega 3 or Linolenic Acid can be broken down into two major components which are both essential for different reasons.  EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) which is anti-inflammatory and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which is useful for improving symptoms associated with asthma, osteoarthritis, heart, bowel inflammation, vision, brain development (40% of brain fats is DHA) and for children with ADHD.  There is a third, less commonly referred to component of Omega 3 called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) that also bears mentioning and whilst it does not provide the same broad benefits that DHA does it still does have benefits.  It is important to note however that the body can convert this ALA to DHA but the conversion rate is very low and inefficient, and even less so in the elderly.  Therefore if you are vegetarian your best option for omega 3 is going to be algae sources which do contain some DHA alongside the ALA.

Omega 3 fatty acids in our diets tend to reduce blood clotting therefore lowering the risk of heart disease. 

The best food sources of Omega 3 DHA are not just any old fish but very specific oily fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines which contain 100% Omega 3 DHA or algae sources particularly if you are vegetarian.  Plant sources such as flaxseeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds are all high in Omega 3 ALA, which is good news for the vegetarians among you, and while it is important for health it does not provide the broad health benefits that DHA does.  Flaxseeds contain 57% Omega 3 ALA and 14% Omega 6 but no DHA, while walnuts contain 10% Omega 3 ALA.

KRILL OIL

There has been much hype and confusion seen with regards to Krill Oil over the last few years.  Krill Oil is largely sourced from the unpolluted water of the Antartic Ocean.  It is high in phospholipids which means it is easier for us to absorb which has an end result of us needing to make much less of it.  many common fish oils on the market are relatively cheap in comparison with a daily dose range of 3000 to 12,000mg being necessary in many cases in order to obtain a "therapeutic" result.  Whereas, with Krill Oil they claim you only need 1 or 2capsules a day due to the easier absorption and much higher potencies.  As a lot of people take many different supplements each day, they find it easier to take 1 or 2 Krill as opposed to 3 to 12 fish oil capsules.  If you have no problem taking so many capsules and money is an issue then I don't have a problem with you just sticking with the common old fish oil capsules, but if you can afford it then I guess Krill Oil is the better option.

CALAMARI OIL

The latest Omega 3 to spring up in advertising is Calamari or Squid Oil - wonder which seafood delicacy will be next??  The claim is that calamari contains more Omega 3 DHA than fish oil and krill oil combined - a whopping 470mg to the gram to be exact as opposed to 120mg/g in fish such as salmon and anchovies, so the same argument as the krill oil applies really - it comes down to how deep your pockets are. 

OMEGA 6

Whilst Omega 3 fatty acids tend to reduce inflammation the opposite can be said of Omega 6 fatty acids. Excess Omega 6 interferes with the health benefits of Omega 3, in part because they compete for the same rate-limiting enzymes.  There are several different types of Omega 6 fatty acids, and not all promote inflammation.  The average Western diet provides sufficient Omega 6 in the form of corn oil. soybean oil. safflower and sunflower oil along with eggs, poultry, avocado, cereals, durum wheat, pumpkin seeds and nuts, therefore supplementation is usually not necessary.  When eating beef try to ensure it is grass-fed beef as it has a more favourable Omega3 to Omega 6 ratio with grain-feeding altering the fatty-acid content.  Chronic excessive production of Omega 6 eicosanoids is associated with arthritis, inflammation and cancer hence the reason why many western medical drugs work by blocking the effects of the potent Omega 6 fat, arachidonic acid.  (Arachidonic acid derived eicosanoids belong to a complex family of fat mediators that regulate a wide variety of  both good and bad responses in the body).  In summary don't supplement with Omega 6 unless advised to do so by your health care provider. 

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GLA

Omega 6 or Linoleic acid is converted to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in the body.  GLA may actually reduce inflammation.  GLA is found in several plant based oils, including evening primrose oil, borage oil and black currant seed oil. Much of the GLA taken as a supplement is converted to a substance called DGLA that fights inflammation.  Supplementation with  magnesium, zinc, Vitamin C, B3 and B6 may also help conversion of GLA to DGLA.   Do not take GLA if pregnant or have a seizure disorder or if taking blood thinning medication, nor should it be taken for 2 week before  surgery requiring anaesthetic.  Evening primrose oil is well worth considering as a supplement however, if suffering from any of the following health conditions:

  • Allergies
  • Blood pressure
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Eczema
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Pre-menstrual Syndrome
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

IN SUMMARY

Omega 3 benefits and established facts are:

  • Omega 3 fatty acids must be obtained from food as our bodies can't manufacture it
  • All the tissues in our body need Omega 3 fatty acids as a structural element and particularly for brain and retina development of the foetus during pregnancy
  • Inflammation in our body is alleviated by several molecule components of Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Omega 3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain, eyes, nervous system, heart, lungs and other vital organs

The Australian Heart Foundation recommends 500mg daily of combined EPA and DHA which equates to 150gms of salmon, mackerel or trevalla three times a week or 300gms of dory, flounder, snapper, cod or bass three times a week.  If you have a history of heart disease you require more.

 

 

Date posted: 2014-01-03 | posted by: debras




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