People often ask me what the bare minimum supplements everyone really should be taking. If I had to narrow it down to two, I would say vitamin D (fall through spring) and Omega-3 fatty acid. While there are other sources of Omega-3, the most common and bioavailable source comes from fish oil. Now before I come off sounding like a snake oil peddler (I don’t even keep fish oil in stock) I will say this; Omega-3 has a host of health benefits! Additionally, most people are very deficient. Researchers at Harvard University ranked Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
What is it?
Yes, fish oil is made from the fatty tissues of fish. It can be eaten rather than supplemented if certain fatty, cold water fish like wild caught salmon, white fish, anchovies, herring or sardines are a main part of your diet. Most people opt to supplement, however. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that must be introduced to your system by eating or supplementation as your body is unable to produce its own. There are two different types as well, Eicosatetraenoic (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both varieties should be present in your supplement as they have very different roles in your body.
Additionally, it should be observed that the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) is very high in Omega-6 fatty acids and low in Omega-3. The optimal ratio of 6’s-3’s is 1:1. But the S.A.D. is around 15-17:1! For an idea of why this is important, consider this: “In the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, a ratio of 4:1 was associated with a 70 percent decrease in total mortality. A ratio of 2.5:1 reduced rectal cell proliferation in patients with colorectal cancer. The lower Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio in women with breast cancer was associated with decreased risk. A ratio of 2-3:1 suppressed inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and a ratio of 5:1 had a beneficial effect on patients with asthma, whereas a ratio of 10:1 had adverse consequences.” – PubMed
The takeaway here? The more Omega-3’s we add to our diet, the better.
How is it used?
Fish oil should be taken daily like a vitamin. Due to its various health benefits it works best as a preventative measure, but it can also reduce symptoms of certain conditions. While there are prescription grade Omega-3’s available, most are over the counter.
What are the benefits?
You may have read in one of my prior articles about the use of fish oil in maintaining the health of the brain, as well as helping your body keep inflammation levels down. But there are many other benefits as well, ranging from heart health to diabetic complications. A few other uses:
• Lower blood pressure and cholesterol
• Preventing heart disease and stroke
• Reducing the effects of certain heart conditions like arrhythmias
• Kidney failure and disease
• Various forms of arthritis
There are vitamins and minerals out there where the cheap stuff works just fine. This isn’t one of those instances. Fish oil has a quality range expanding from Dodge Neon to a Ferrari F430. Sorry to any Neon lovers I may have offended. There are a plethora of brands where you just as well eat the bottle. So how do we pick a good one? Number one, it won’t cost $4.99/bottle. You’re going to have to invest a little more than that to get the benefit. Secondly, it had to be third party tested. The FDA does not quality control supplements, so if they are doing their own testing, its completely unproven.
I hope this information finds you well!
Dr. W.C. Verch runs Carolina West Clinic of Chiropractic, 1112 Calhoun Street, Newberry, you can reach him at 803-597-5099.