Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Omega 3 - Why we need 'em
The medical journals are filled with study after study touting the proven health benefits of Omega 3 Free Fatty Acids (Omega 3 FFA)in our diet. These fatty acids are called "essential" because they cannot be synthesized in the body and must be obtained through diet or supplements. There are three types of Omega 3 FFA: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), alpha-linolenic acid (AHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These essential FFAs are vital components of almost all cell membranes
Our Western diet changed dramatically after 1913 when refined vegetable oil (margarine, etc) came on the scene. These refined oils are a major source of Omega 6 FFA and it threw off the body's healthy balance of Omega 6 to Omega 3. What was once a ratio of 2:1 is now as high as 17:1. We stopped eating fish, wild game, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables and substituted corn sugar and processed foods. Our diets are severely out of whack and our health is showing the effects.
A new study released in Psychosomatic Medicine showed that older adults who had depressive symptoms, coupled with diets low in Omega 3 FFA had higher levels of inflammatory chemicals in their blood. These inflammatory cytokines have been proven to influence the onset of many serious conditions including cardiovascular disease, arthritis, alzheimers and cancer. Omega 3 FFA act as an antinflammatory and make blood less likely to form clots. Studies have also shown a connection with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and low levels of Omega 3 FFA. The study's author said when it comes to how people respond to stress "diet is not just a sideline player". Depression and stress, coupled with diets high in Omega 6 and low in Omega 3, may influence how we age and what diseases we acquire.
I prescribe Omega 3 supplements to patients with arthritis and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol and triglycerides). We all know it is better to get our nutrients from our diet but few of us have the kind of diet our hunter-gatherer forefathers had.
If we could all eat like great-grandma, coupled with the benefits of the scientific advances of the 21st century, who knows how long we could live? If you can't eat a diet high in fish oil, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, walnuts and vegetables, supplementing with Omega 3 FFA is a wise move.
See my prior post on the negative effects of chronic stress
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 9:06 PM