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OMEGA-3....whats all the fuss about?

Oct 15, 2015

Essential Fatty Acids…you have definitely heard of these critters. You know that they support brain health and are aware that they are sold at the gym to ward of aches and pains but what are they and what have they got to do with Omega-3?

Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated essential fatty acid that plays a huge part in how we work but cannot be derived by the body. The only way to get them is through the food you eat or through supplementation.

Here's a list of the jobs Omega-3 does in the body:

Maintains proper brain function for growth and development

Provides fluidity in cell membranes allowing for correct chemical activity

Helps to synthesise prostaglandins: hormone like substances responsible for many functions at cellular level

Regulates oxygen use and energy production

Formation of haemoglobin

Supports the production of digestive enzymes

Helps to make lubricants for joints

Helps to transport cholesterol in the blood

Helps to generate electrical currents and keep heart rate regular

Balances the immune system and preventing allergies

Ensures proper nerve transmission, especially within the brain

Contributes to bone formation and repair

Reduces inflammation in the body

Alleviates complications involved in MS, Candida and digestive complaints

THATS A LOT OF JOBS!

The 3 Parts of Omega-3

 

Omega-3 is a little more complex than you might think. You see there are 3 types of this polyunsaturated fatty acid:

1. Eicosapontainoic Acid aka EPA

2. Docasaexaenoic Acid aka DHA

3. A-Linolenic Acid aka ALA

 ….so if you have ever seen their initials banded around but had no idea what they are, now you know! Don’t worry, I’m just about to answer your next question…. what’s the difference? Well, put simply EPA and DHA are the fatty acids that work together to perform the roles listed. ALA is the precursor of EPA and DHA. The body takes ALA and then converts it to EPA or DHA. The problem with ALA is that many people are not capable of performing this conversion and lose out on the nutrients needed as a consequence. This makes including the first two in the diet ever more important.

EPA and DHA found in:

Cold water fish: salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, tuna etc.

 

...well it works for the bears!

ALA is found in:

Seeds, nut oils, flax, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, soybeans etc.

So How Much?

This is a really good question! You see there is no standard recommended amount of Omega-3 you should be consuming on a daily basis. This boils down to another factor. Omega-3 has a brother: Omega-6! Where Omega-3 plays a huge role in repair and reduction of inflammation, Omega-6 counteracts this. Omega 3 and 6 also compete for the same kind of conversion enzymes and the human body cannot produce enough enzymes to match the requirements.[1] The more Omega-6 in the body, the less ALA can be converted. End result - Omega-3 can't perform its jobs. The two therefore need to be kept in balance.

It is believed that human beings evolved on a diet with an equal ratio of 1:1 Omega-3 to Omega-6[2] however the typical Western diet now has a ratio of 15 times more omega-6 than Omega 3! This has led to raised inflammation levels and increased risk of many diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.[3] These large amounts of Omega-6 are obtained from vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and red meat.

Getting the balance right is about lifestyle. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a daily EPA and DHA intake of 0.3-0.5g and a daily ALA intake of 0.8-1.1g [4] but If you know you eat a lot of nuts, seeds, red meat and processed foods then you might need more to counteract the affects of Omega-6. It might also be worth thinking clean and replacing that steak with a fillet of Salmon. If you want to be on the safe side, consider supplenting with a good quality fish oil or Omega-3 supplement. We like Phil Richards Fish Oil Capsules as we know they contain the good stuff and have been formulated to ensure they don't go rancid.

 

How Does Sport Affect Omega-3?

We all know that sport puts stress on the body leading to increased inflammation. For this reason, it is even more important to ensure you get enough omega-3 to balance out the effects of inflammation in the body. Research suggests taking 1000 milligrams of fish oil twice daily in order to improve exercise performance whilst eating 2-3 portions of organic cold water fish will help to ward off those aches and pains. On top of this, make sure you don't overdo the red meat as it contains Arachidonic acid that creates an inflammatory reaction in the body.

 

 

 

 



[1]http://www.thecandidadiet.com/health-benefits-omega-3/

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12442909

[3] Ibid

[4] http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/omega-3-fatty-acids-fish-oil-alpha-linolenic-acid/dosing/hrb-20059372

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