This week we’re discussing omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
I consider these a must for myself because I hate seafood in any form or fashion. I can’t even get it past my nose. Being from Massachusetts originally, my family consider me the family embarrassment due to my loathing of all things seafood. What’s worse, my girlfriend considers lobster to be a major food group so I frequently find myself having to order one of the two non-fish items on the menu at Red Lobster-and eat it while breathing through my mouth! Thankfully, they have Sam Adam’s Boston Lager on tap…in the 20 oz, mug! Considering that fatty fish such as salmon, trout and tuna, and shellfish like crab, mussels and oysters are the most common source of (EPA) Eicosapentaenoic Acid, and (DHA) Docosahexaenoic Acid, (two of the three omega-3 fatty acids) I definitely need to supplement. Throw in the third ringer, that I rarely eat fried foods-canola and soybean oils being the main sources for the third of the three fatty acids, (ALA) Alpha-Linolenic Acid, and I’d be out of luck without a supplement.
Before even considering an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, (commonly known as fish oil) there’s a few things you need to know.
1) If you’re taking any medications that effect blood clotting such as blood thinners or NSAIDS, do not start an omega-3 supplement without first speaking with your healthcare provider. Omega-3 supplements are contraindicated for people taking any medications that affect blood clotting due to their penchant for extending bleeding times.
2) If you have a seafood allergy, omega-3 supplements can possibly cause you to have an allergic reaction.
3) If you are pregnant, planning on becoming pregnant or breastfeeding, speak with your healthcare provider before starting an omega-3 regimen (or any supplemental regimen for that matter). Seafood is recommended only in small amounts during pregnancy, and supplementing may provide too much EPA and DHA.
4) If you’re a Vegetarian or Vegan, there are algae and krill oil supplements that can be taken in place of fish oils.
I’m a firm believer in the health benefits of omega-3 supplementation, but a lot of the studies I’ve read lately are inconclusive regarding the cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation-my main reason for taking it. There seems to be more positive results regarding the effect of omega-3’s for the relief of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and for lowering triglyceride levels. It would seem to me that if it’s capable of lowering triglyceride levels and slowing down clotting times, it must have some cardiovascular benefit, but I’m no doctor. For me personally, I opt to believe (and I have done extensive research) there is cardiovascular benefit from omega-3 fatty acids and I’ll continue to supplement. And I’m a little fish in the fish oil believer pond. Read on.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends everyone eat fish (particularly fatty fish) at least twice a week. While foods are your best bet for getting omega-3’s in your diet, fish oil supplements are available for those who do not eat fish. Further, the AHA states that taking up to 3 grams (3000 milligrams) of fish oil supplements daily is considered safe (most of the available supplements contain between 1000-1400 milligrams with a recommended dosage of between two to three capsules per day). They strongly recommend that you don’t take more than 3 grams daily unless you discuss it with your doctor first. If you have heart disease, you may need even higher doses of omega-3 fatty acids. Ask your doctor if you should take higher doses of fish oil supplements to get the omega-3’s you need. (source webmed.com)
Obviously the AHA believes there’s some cardiovascular benefits from omega-3 supplements-and their business is all about hearts!
Dr. Oz had this to say about omega-3 fatty acids: “Omega-3 fatty acids are the brain-boosting, cholesterol-clearing good fats.” Dr. Oz lists omega-3’s as 1 of the 5 critical supplements every woman should take (along with a multivitamin and additional vitamin D supplements), 1 of 5 daily nutrition needs and as one of the most important steps expecting mother’s can take to promote their baby’s healthy development. (source: Dr Oz.com)
Obviously Dr. Oz believes in the cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 supplements.
I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. While I am in no way one of those conspiracy theorists who believe the AMA rejects any claims about the beneficial properties of vitamin and herbal supplementation due to their inability to control them, I do believe that anything that doesn’t have to be prescribed by a physician is poo-poo’ed by a great many mainstream practitioners and considered notions, potions and snake oil. This certainly isn’t meant to include all mainstream doctors. Mine seems to be very open to supplementation and the benefits they offer; but we haven’t discussed it any more in-depth than to weigh my own supplementation choices. There just isn’t time. “Take off your clothes, say ah, bend over, thank you, that’ll be $125.00,” is what most of us experience during an office visit. Rarely do we have time for chit-chat in these times where the insurance companies have doctors offices turned into mass production assembly lines. It just seems to me that many doctors prefer to be reactive instead of proactive and would prefer to deal with the end result rather than being more open to alternative means to prolong or prevent that end result. Again, that’s just my opinion.
But I digress. Let’s get back to omega-3’s.
Omega-3 fatty acids are are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are considered essential nutrients, They can’t be synthesized by the body. This means that it must be added either through diet or supplementation. Studies are inconsistent for many of the beneficial claims of fish oils, but there haven’t really been enough controlled studies to state conclusive evidence pro or con. Unfortunately, that’s the case with most herbal supplements.
However, studies have proven that omega-3 fatty acids may lower triglyceride levels in the blood, lower blood pressure, increase circulation, increase the breakdown of clot and scar forming fibrin, (again, seems like cardiovascular benefit to me) reduce inflammation such as that seen in Rheumatiod Arthritis as well as NSAID’s do, and reduce the risk of the onset of dementia among other, yet unstudied, conditions.
Sound like it might be worth a few dollars a month?
Unfortunately, alternative medicine is woefully short on conclusive studies, mainly due to the fact that they are considered by all too many mainstream medicos to not be worth the effort. I believe that’s due in large part to the fact that the vast majority of supplements aren’t controlled, aren’t ridiculously expensive and don’t require a prescription. That’s incredibly evident now that it was found that millions of Americans are vitamin D deficient, a deficiency that can lead to weakened bones, cancer, asthma, cardiovascular disease, MS and other autoimmune diseases. Once conclusive studies were out proving this, many doctors immediately started testing their patients for vitamin D deficiency and started writing scripts for prescription vitamin D which, believe it or not, has been proven to be inferior in quality to over the counter vitamin D supplements…and a whole lot more expensive. The prescription formulation vitamin D is generally a D2 (Ergocalciferol) compound which is the same D vitamin used to fortify milk and cereals. Most of the better supplements contain D3 (Cholecalciferol) which has been proven to be at least 50% more effective than D2. We’ll discuss vitamin D3 supplements next week.
Now the hard part: finding a good quality supplement.
There are literally thousands of them out there of varying degrees of quality. It has been my experience that dollar store vitamins are definitely out. I rarely go into the dollar stores, but had the “opportunity” to venture in to one a few weeks ago. While I was in there, probably out of boredom while my girlfriend shopped, I wandered into their vitamin section and started reading labels. When the fillers and additives consist of names you can’t pronounce, they’re definitely something you want to stay away from.
GMO’s are also something to avoid. In my humble opinion, anything genetically modified scares me and I don’t care to knowingly ingest anything that has been genetically altered. Many of the garden variety vitamins contain GMO’s.
As for content, I prefer to take a supplement that contains omega-3’s from different sources. The one I’m currently taking contains Borage Seed Oil, Fish Oil and Flax Seed oil, all natural sources. All the omega-3 bases are covered, no GMO’s and all contained in vegetable capsule. Always read the label thoroughly. All of the better supplement manufacturers show the full label on their website or in their catalog. Last week we discussed some of the scary additives used in the bargain supplements and the lower quality sources they extract the actual vitamin, mineral or herb from.
Well, I believe that about sums up my soap box sermon on the benefits of Omega-3 supplements. I hope this information has been useful and that this blog has been enlightening on some level.
Next week we’ll discuss vitamin D3. I hope you’ll stop back by.
As always, feel free to leave comments below, (good or bad) or send an email if you have a comment or question you’d rather not post on a public forum.
Until next week, I wish you good health, much happiness and a whole lot of smiles.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended for informational purposes only and is in no way meant to diagnose, treat or cure any medical conditions and should not be construed as such. Always discuss any ailments or supplement regimen with your healthcare provider