Omega 3 - Why have intakes decreased?
Over the last 30 or so years, there has been a significant decrease in the intake of omega-3 in the average western diet. There are a number of reasons for this:
An increase in fast food consumption which is high in saturated and low in unsaturated fatty acids, Changes in farming methods where the emphasis has switched to larger yields which may not result in a more nutritious product.
For example, cows traditionally fed on lush green pastures yield milk richer in natural omega 3s than pellet fed livestock who may never see a green field in their lives. The trend towards “low fat” food, many consumers are ignorant of the fact that not all fats are bad!
Some scientists believe that the lack of Omega 3 in the Northern European diet is directly linked to the proportionately high levels of degenerative diseases in the developed population such as heart disease, cancer, allergies, asthma, arthritis and even certain brain function disorders such as ADHD and depression. Not all
Not all Omega 3s are the same:
The main 3 omega 3s are:
* Omega 3 ALA from plant sources such as hemp and flax * Omega 3 EPA mainly from oily fish * Omega 3 DHA mainly from oily fish and algae * DHA and EPA are made by microalgae that live in seawater. These are then consumed by fish and accumulate to high levels in their internal organs. If a person has ethical concerns about killing fish, or is concerned about mercury and ocean borne contaminants in fish, DHA can be produced directly from microalgae as a vegetarian source. ALA isn’t a particularly efficient omega 3 source as the body has to convert it to EPA or DHA and the conversion ratio is fairly low (5 – 15%).
What should the educated consumer should look for?
EPA and DHA Concentration
The first thing to look for is the concentration of the active long-chain fatty acids (EPA and DHA) responsible for providing the health benefits of fish oil. The higher the concentration of EPA and DHA, the less oil you have to take to obtain the health benefits.
Why is Omega 3 Important?
The alternative health community were shocked to hear the announcement on September 8, 2004, that the ultra conservative U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave "qualified health claim" status to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) omega 3 fatty acids, stating that "supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA [n−3] fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease”The Canadian Government has also recognised the importance of DHA omega-3 and permits the following biological role claim for DHA: "DHA, an omega 3 fatty acid, supports the normal development of the brain, eyes and nerves." The UK government has yet to act, although over 5,000 separate trials are currently taking place in relation to a variety of health and the impact of Omega 3.
The commonest source of Omega 3 EPA and DHA is from cold water oily fish such as Herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, pilchards and salmon. They can contain up to 7 times as much omega 3 and 6 as white fish. Cod and Halibut meat isn’t particularly rich in omega 3 but their livers are. Consumers of oily fish should be aware of the potential presence of heavy metals and fat-soluble pollutants like PCBs and dioxin which may accumulate up the food chain, to minimise the risks of this we would suggest avoiding the larger fish higher up the food chain (such as shark meat) and liver sourced oils (e.g. cod liver oil).
Higher quality oils may even provide toxicity guarantees or certification. As with other food supplements, you get what you pay for in terms of fish oil and the consumer needs to read beyond the label!.
As macronutrients, unsaturated fats are not assigned daily recommended allowances. However, in the USA Macronutrients have AI (Acceptable Intake) and AMDR (Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range) instead of RDAs. The AI for omega−3 is 1.6 grams/day for men and 1.1 grams/day for women
 while the AMDR is 0.6% to 1.2% of total energy.
The UK food standards agency recommends eating 2 portions of fish per week, one of which should be a portion of oily fish.If you don’t eat fish or you don’t believe their recommendation matches the latest recommendations for optimum health benefits you may chose to supplement the diet with an omega 3 product. Unless you have ethical concerns, we’d highly recommend you chose a fish oil product as these can offer the best solution in terms of dosage volume
Fish Oil Quality
There’s a huge difference in the quality of available fish oil products available on the market, even buying a top brand may not guarantee you’re getting the best you can buy. Also, good quality omega 3 isn’t a cheap ingredient so if you supplement is cheap look very closely at your label and compare it to other products in the market.
There are a number of things to consider when purchasing fish oils, here are some:
* Look for purity of content. Check EPA and DHA to overall. Some oils you buy may be as low as 10% omega 3 and as high as 94%. The size of capsule doesn’t relate to the omega 3 content!* Where is the oil sourced from, the best quality oils tend to be manufactured in the Nordic regions* Even some forms of fish oil may not be optimally digestible.
Of four studies that compare bio availability of the triglyceride form of fish oil vs. the ester form, two have concluded that the natural triglyceride form is better, and the other two studies did not find a significant difference. No studies have shown the ester form to be superior although it is cheaper to manufacture.   * PCB/Dioxin, Mercury, Cadmium and other pollutants – EU standards allow some contamination of natural products with these pollutants, which they consider to be safe levels. However, some manufacturers set higher standards and if they do then they’ll make it clear in their literature. If they don’t then you can’t assume they’re mercury free for example.
Health Benefits for the Heart ….Research suggests that EPA and DHA may help to prevent plaque fat deposits and blood clots in your arteries, which can lead to strokes and heart attacks. Studies also indicate that EPA and DHA may help to reduce the risk of other coronary diseases and conditions that may lead to strokes and heart attacks. The American Heart Association supports the premise that EPA and DHA are essential to a healthy heart. The Association recognizes the many cardiovascular health benefits of EPA and DHA, including:
Health Benefits for the Brain…. Your brain is one of your vital organs that require Omega-3s to perform optimally. In fact, 60% of your brain is made up of structural fat (a large part of which is DHA) and it requires a regular intake of “good fats,” such as Omega-3s, to function properly. Research indicates that Omega-3 deficiencies may be linked to the following conditions:
* Attention Deficit /Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)* Dyslexia* Depression and aggression* Memory problems, Alzheimer disease and dementia
Consuming the recommended daily intake of Omega-3s is critical to the normal functioning of the brain and the nervous system and it may help to alleviate the above mentioned conditions. In the United Kingdom, The Joint Health Claims Initiative (JHCI), a group of consumer and industry representatives that issues advice on health claims in the absence of regulation in this area, said today that seven leading scientists have approved a heart health claim for long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
“ Eating 3g weekly, or 0.45g daily, long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, as part of a healthy lifestyle, helps maintain heart health.’
Further research points to:
* Reduced risk of strokes and heart attacks * Reduction in blood viscosity * Relaxing of blood vessels (vasodilation) * Lowering blood pressure * Reduced risk of blood clots in coronary arteries (thrombosis, anti-thrombotic properties) * Protection against heart abnormalities (arrhythmia, ventricular tachycardia, fibrillation) * Reduction of triglycerides (blood fat levels) * Protection against hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) * Protection against plaque fat ruptures leading to strokes and heart attacks.
All in all despite the authorities not allowing any further health claims to be made, the research suggests that Omega 3 could be the best insurance policy .you could ever take out.
Health Benefits for the Body….EPA and DHA are essential for a healthy body. These “essential” fatty acids play a crucial role in normal growth and development and they are the building blocks for the cells in your vital organs. Research indicates that EPA and DHA may also contribute to the reduction of inflammatory compounds that cause inflammation in your body. Studies suggest that EPA and DHA may help to reduce the risk of:
* Rheumatoid arthritis and other collagen vascular diseases such as lupus* Inflammatory skin disorders* Inflammatory bowel diseases
Studies also indicate that, because EPA and DHA are vital building blocks for your cells, they can also help to guard against conditions that cause degeneration of cells or organs such as: * Degeneration of eyesight caused by macular degeneration * Alzheimer disease * Chronic kidney damage.
Animal Study Shows Correlation Between Omega 3 and Reduction in Osteoarthritis Symptoms
New research has been carried out that demonstrates how an omega-3 rich diet, obtained from flax and fish oils, can ‘substantially and significantly’ reduce cases of osteoarthritis.The research published in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage shows findings that guinea pigs, which can naturally develop the osteoarthritis condition, showed a 50% reduction in the symptoms of disease in animals which were fed an omega 3 rich diet instead of a standard diet. The research that was carried out in the University of Bristol, UK, and shows that there is a definite correlation between ingesting more omega 3 fatty acids sourced from fish oil or flax oil and a reduction or even prevention in the progression on osteoarthritis.
The team of Bristol researchers were headed by Dr. John Tarlton who states that the study clearly demonstrated clear benefits of omega 3 in reducing signs of osteoarthritis. He also added that there were no signs that increasing omega 3 intake would in any way lead to disease in the osteoarthritis free strain.
Early signs on osteoarthritis such as the breaking down on collagen in cartilage and reduction in the amount of molecules that provide the shock absorbing properties were shown to be reduced with a diet containing higher amounts of omega 3. Dr. Tarlton states that there is strong evidence to indicate that omega 3 influences the biochemistry of the disease, which as well as reducing progression and controlling established osteoarthritis, it can also help to prevent initial onset of the disease.
The research was funded by Arthritis Research UK where Professor Alan Silman, medical research director explains that past research which was carried out on dogs had suggested that scientists were further away from understanding the possible functions of omega 3 in human osteoarthritis. He goes on to say that this recent research which has been carried out on guinea pigs has brought them much closer to understanding how omega 3 can interfere with osteoarthritis as a process and its potential as a future treatment for the condition.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is caused by the erosion and generally wear and tear of cartilage at the ends of the bones. As this wears away, the bone underneath will thicken and cause the joints to become stiff and painful. As of now, there is no effectual treatment to reduce the progression of the disease and the only management that is available is limited to pain relief or joint replacement procedures.
As the population is generally getting older, this disease is set to be 4th leading cause of disability in the UK by the year 2020 if nothing is done about its treatment. Western diets have traditionally been lower in omega 3 and this has been linked with several inflammatory disorders, including osteoarthritis.
Tarlton’s research team demonstrated that omega 3 reduced symptoms of osteoarthritis in guinea pigs. Further studies will need to be carried out to determine the effects and influence that omega 3 fatty acids are likely to have on the established disease in humans.