©By Dori Cranmore R.N.
Omega 3, Omega 6, Omega 9, EFA’s, EPA’s, DHA’s, Good fats, Bad fats….can be confusing and what does it all mean to our overall health?
EFA’s are the Fatty Acids that are Essential for our body’s many functions and come in many forms.
At one time fats were hard to find as there were no processed oils and wild game is naturally lean. Fats used to be a luxury so if you were prosperous enough you were considered in “fat city” or “living off the fat of the land”. Today, fats are easy to obtain, but what fats do our bodies really need to maintain health?
Omega 3 is the single most important essential nutrient that is almost entirely missing from our modern day diets. There is now overwhelming evidence from thousands of clinical studies that Omega 3 can improve health and help prevent inflammation and dis-ease — including lowering triglycerides, general heart benefits, improving brain function, as well as helping with diabetes, strokes, depression, arthritis, allergies, circulation problems, ADHD, autism, Alzheimer’s, skin disorders, gout, and many others.
“Omega 3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of — or who have — cardiovascular disease.” — American Heart Association
There are three main types of Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid), are both found in cold water fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, krill, etc). The only plant foods that contain these are seaweed, algae and chia seeds. The third is ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), actually a precursor to EPA and DHA, which is found in flaxseed oil, dark green leafy vegetables and some vegetable oils. Even if your body is in peak condition, you will only convert less than 20% of the ALA to EPA and DHA, so the only way to ensure getting the proper amount of EPA and DHA is to take it directly in the form of fish oil. Some studies on 100% salmon oil say that the body utilizes it more efficiently than other fish sources. Now don’t confuse Cod Liver Oil with Fish oil. Cod liver oil comes from the liver, whereas fish oil comes from the body of the fish. Cod liver oil is very high in Vitamin A — and if you take it, you should be very careful to do so in limited quantities since it is very easy to overdose on Vitamin A (with possible negative implications for your bones). More is not better with Cod Liver Oil. The only way to get omega 3 without the 6 and 9 is by taking fish oil. Recommended for health maintenance is 3000mg daily, (1000mg for children). A large 4oz salmon steak (baked properly with the skin on and eating the gray next to the skin) delivers about 84mg of omega 3.
Sources of Omega 6 polyunsaturated fats include seeds, nuts, and refined vegetable oils, such as soy that is used in most snack foods, crackers, cookies and sweets. Soybean oil alone is so prevalent in processed and fast foods that an astounding 20% of the calories in the American diet are estimated to come from this one source.
Dr. Andrew Weil says that our imbalance of the omega 3’s and 6’s may explain the rise of asthma, coronary heart disease, many forms of cancer, auto-immunity and neurodegenerative diseases, obesity, depression, dyslexia, hyperactivity and violence. Dr. Mercola says the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is 1:1. Our ancestors evolved over millions of years on this ratio. Today, our ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 averages from 20:1 to 50:1! That spells serious danger for you, and as is now (finally!) being reported throughout even the mainstream health media. Researchers are now also linking inadequate intake of these omega-3 fats in pregnant women to premature birth and low birth weight. Despite a growing body of evidence that DHA, is the essential structural ingredient of breast milk lacking in infant formulas, the Food and Drug Administration continues to ban its use in the U.S.
There are many inferior brands of fish and cod liver oil on the market that, at best, you’ll be throwing your money away on because they have little real benefit, and at worse, can actually cause you harm over time because of the large amount of pollution and heavy metals present. Purity and potency mean everything when choosing Omega 3 oils. In my research I found Barlean’s, Carlson’s, Nature’s Sunshine and Vital Choice 100% Salmon Oil to be some of the purest. Make sure your brand has gone through molecular distillation.
Fish oil is great for dogs – and cats! Veterinarians first used omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil to treat canine allergies but now recommend it for a wide variety of conditions ranging from kidney disease to arthritis and high cholesterol. Adding fish oil to your dog’s food provides anti-inflammatory effects and can help relieve itching.
Omega 9 is a monounsaturated fat known as oleic acid and found primarily in olive oil, emu oil and almonds. Omega-9 is a nonessential fatty acid, since it is produced naturally by the body when omega 3 and 6 are present.
Omega 3 by itself is vitally important to help decrease inflammation, which is the cause of all dis-ease in our bodies.
Dori Cranmore is a Registered Nurse and owner of All About Herbs Wellness Center in Wasilla. For a personalized consult please call 376-8327.