By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Wellness
Have you had your fish oil today? If you want to ensure good health and delay aging, it’s a habit you should consider adopting. Fish oil supplements are a rich and convenient source of those all-important omega-3 fats. These fats are considered essential for two reasons. First, your body can’t make them so you must attain them from food or supplements. Second, inadequate amounts can kill you. In fact, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, it’s estimated that 96,000 Americans die each year due to a lack of omega-3s in their diets. But if you are getting plenty of omega-3s, you can look forward to a longer life, overall improved health, a leaner physique, a clearer head and younger-looking skin.
Scientists are discovering that omega-3 fats even affect how our genes work. In a nutshell, omega-3s activate DNA to decrease inflammation, reduce cancer formation, protect against the formation of clots and improve nerve cell communications. This simply adds to the growing list of benefits these fishy fats can provide. According to a variety of published studies, taking fish oil can:
- Reduce the risk for heart disease.
- Provide relief from inflammatory diseases.
- Boost levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol.
- Lower levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol as well as triglycerides.
- Reduce the likelihood of high blood pressure.
- Reduce the chances of developing artery-clogging plaque or blood clots.
- Diminish the risk of sudden death from a heart attack or stroke.
- Improve blood sugar control among people who are overweight.
- Decrease joint pain and stiffness among people with arthritis.
- Improve bone health.
- Improve mood.
- Lower the risk of macular degeneration.
- Reduce the risk for colon cancer, and possibly breast and prostate cancers.
Talk about multi-talented! New research in the Journal of the American Medical Association hints that omega-3s may also help delay aging by preventing cells from deteriorating. The study, which involved 608 people with heart disease, found that high levels of omega-3 fats in the blood seemed to slow down the aging process.
The key omega-3 fats in fish are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). As a rule, approximately one-third of fish oil in supplements is a combination of EPA and DHA. Nutritionally-oriented doctors usually recommend 1 to 2 grams daily of an EPA/DHA combination for healthy people, and up to 4 grams for those with heart disease, diabetes, inflammatory diseases or other chronic conditions.
So can you get the same benefits from eating fish? You can, but you would have to have a steady diet of omega-3 rich fish. And then there’s the question of mercury. While a good quality fish oil supplement is free of contaminants, your fish dinner might not be. Here’s a good example: One 3-ounce serving of fresh, frozen or canned salmon can provide between 1 and 2 grams of omega-3 fats with negligible levels of mercury. In contrast, in addition to being breaded and fried, fast-food fish sandwiches are usually made from cod, which is relatively low in omega-3s. Although the omega-3 content of cod varies, you’d need to eat between 1 and 1.5 pounds of the fish to get at least 1 gram of the healthful fats. And the mercury content of such a quantity of cod is estimated to be more than 50 times that of a 3-ounce serving of salmon or sardines.
To make sure you are getting a consistent daily dose of high quality omega-3s, take a pure marine fish oil supplement that provides both EPA and DHA. To get the biggest bang for your buck, take 3 grams of fish oil with food daily.
Farzaneh-Far R. Association of marine omega-3 fatty acid levels with telomeric aging in patients with coronary heart disease. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2010;303:250-257.
von Schacky C. Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. 2007;10:129-135.
Yashodhara BM. Omega-3 fatty acids: a comprehensive review of their role in health and disease. Postgraduate Medicine Journal. 2009;85:84-90