Omega 3 fatty acids, like those found in omega 3 fish oil supplements, are probably the most important fats for optimal health. A major reason for this is because they're so effective at suppressing inflammation, a primary cause of many of the degenerative diseases so common today — heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimers, arthritis, and more.
Omega 3 supplements have been shown to have a wealth of health benefits, including:
There are many types of essential fatty acids. The ones most well-known are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); these are all categorized as polyunsaturated fatty acids.
There is solid evidence that omega 3 fatty acids are vital to your health. The EPA and DHA in fish oil are the subject of thousands of studies that clearly demonstrate their benefits, especially for your cardiovascular health.
DHA is the most biologically-active essential fatty acid. It is found in all the cell membranes in your body, especially in your brain. DHA has been proven to be the element most responsible for the cardiovascular protection properties of fish oil.
Modern day diets are usually lacking in omega 3 fats. Instead, we're consuming lots of omega 6 fats, largely through vegetable oils like corn, canola and soy oil.
An imbalance of omega 3 and omega 6 in the diet leads to inflammation, which contributes to the onset of degenerative diseases. Unless you eat fish high in omega 3 frequently, you'll end up with an imbalance of omega 3 to omega 6 fats in your diet, because omega 6 foods are very common.
If you don't eat fish very often, you can use omega 3 fish oil supplements to get your daily requirement of these essential fatty acids. Visit my page on omega 3 benefits to discover the many reasons why you may want to supplement your diet with an omega 3 supplement.
Dietary sources of omega 3 include animal-based sources, vegetarian sources, such as various nuts and seeds, and supplements made from these sources. The primary source for getting omega 3 fats in today's diet is fish high in omega 3.
Environmental Toxins in Fish. Unfortunately, you can't be sure that the fish you buy are truly safe to eat. Due to environmental pollution, most fish today are contaminated with dangerous toxins like mercury, dioxins and PCBs.
The FDA has warned consumers not to eat fish too often due to the levels of mercury present; they recommend that, for some species, one serving a month is all that is safe!
Overall, experts are divided on the issue of whether the benefits of eating fish outweigh any problems. Some studies have shown that the naturally-high levels of selenium in many fish binds up the mercury so that your body doesn't absorb it. If you want to be safe, stick to wild-caught Alaskan salmon or smaller species, lower on the food chain.
Fish oil goes rancid very easily, so it's important that the oil is fresh and is packaged properly. Don't buy fish oil supplements in clear containers, because these allow light in that oxidizes the oil. Always check the expiration date as well.
• Choose name-brand products from reputable manufacturers. Buy from a company with high product turnover to maximize the possibility of getting a product that's fresh. Avoid cheap drug store and generic brands. They're of poor quality and often are rancid from poor handling.
• Look for natural sources that have been purified by molecular distillation, to ensure the product is free of mercury and other contaminants.
• Look for added antioxidants (such as vitamin E or astaxanthin) that will protect the oil from oxidation.
• Buy small bottles, and store the fish oil in your refrigerator
Omega 3 Supplement Survey Demonstrates the Safety of Fish Oils. The Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental group, examined products from 75 different omega 3-producing companies. They found that almost all of them are purifying their fish oils to meet stringent safety standards for contaminants like mercury and dioxins. Again, stay away from cheap store brands and you should be safe.
Read the full report, including specific brands: Fish Oil Survey
An even better alternative is to use krill oil instead of fish oil. Krill offers numerous advantages over fish oil, not the least of which is a much higher resistance to oxidation, and spoilage. See Omega 3 Krill Oil — Is it Better than Fish Oil? for more information.
Be consistent — supplement with a high-quality omega 3 fish oil supplement daily. If you eat at least two seafood servings a week and have no pressing health concerns, 500 mg of EPA and DHA per day will be enough for general health needs. You could double that if you're looking for extra protection for your heart.
If you have health issues that could benefit from additional omega 3, you may want to take more — up to 2000 mg. per day. Any higher dose should be used only under a healthcare provider's supervision.
Typically, fish oil supplements will have different ratios of EPA to DHA; most of them have more EPA, in about a 3 to 2 ratio. There doesn't seem to be any consensus over what is the ideal ratio of EPA to DHA, although at the present time, DHA has more documented evidence to support its benefits, especially for expecting and nursing mothers.
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