Why You Absolutely, Positively Need Fish Oil
By Carol Antonino, DC, CCST
After twenty years of studying nutrition, and about the same amount of time educating my patients about good nutrition, it is time (once and for all) that the topic of fish oil supplementation is put to rest.
Fish oil is an essential fatty acid, which means that our bodies cannot produce it; therefore it must be obtained from the diet. More specifically, it is an Omega 3 fatty acid. All I want you to remember is Omega 3=good. These fats are critically important for the function of every cell of the body, being incorporated into our cell membranes and allowing the appropriate elimination of wastes and absorption of nutrients. Omega 3’s are highly anti-inflammatory in nature, reducing systemic inflammation in the body. The wrong types of fatty acids in the diet interfere with these processes.
The 20th century marked the introduction of vegetable oils into our diets. Practically all prepared or processed foods now contain soybean, corn, sunflower, safflower or canola oil. These oils are classified as Omega 6 fatty acids, and are extremely inflammatory in the body when not balanced with Omega 3’s in the right proportion. Historically, our ancestors ate a diet with a ratio of 6’s to 3’s of approximately 4:1. The Standard American Diet (SAD) courts a ratio anywhere from 30-50:1. The imbalance of these fats towards the Omega 6 side increases our production of prostaglandin 2 and other inflammatory molecules which promote arthritis, pain, vascular disease and diabetes, to name a few. Remember this: too many Omega 6’s=bad.
Many people mistakenly believe that all Omega 3’s are the same, but they are not. Omega 3’s such as flax, hemp, chia, and walnuts are good sources of nutrients, but their shorter chain molecular configuration does not allow them to pass into many cells to offer their benefits. Most notable of these is the brain which is composed of approximately 40% fat. Fish oil, which is a longer, more complex molecule, is particularly beneficial for the retina, brain, and nerve cells, as well as the heart and vascular system.
Modern humans must consume high quality fish oil from cold water fish in order to reap these amazing benefits, but how about eating fish? Firstly, eating fish will in fact give you long chain Omega 3s, but the amount that you would need to eat to provide anti-inflammatory benefits would not be feasible due to the high levels of mercury, PCB and dioxin that are found in current day fish supplies. Farmed fish of course holds little value for supplying Omega 3’s since these fish feed on Omega 6 grains and grain byproducts. This dramatically lowers their Omega 3 content. So, if you are going to consume fish, it should be wild caught and no more than 2-3 servings per week for an average size man (as recommended by the EPA). This is not adequate in terms of daily dose for fish oil.
In order to get therapeutic benefit of long chain Omega 3 fatty acids, you must supplement with high quality, appropriate dose fish oil. This means that your fish oil should guarantee that it has been purified to remove toxins and heavy metals such as mercury etc…a statement that should be right on the label or packing material. Secondly, numerous clinical studies prove that the beneficial effects of fish oil are seen at doses of approximately 2.7 grams/day. Your fish oil should provide approx 1600mg of EPA, and 800mg of DHA, if it doesn’t you will need to take as many capsules as will give you that quantity. Additionally, your fish oil should contain some antioxidants (usually mixed tocopherols) to prevent rancidity.
I have heard every argument in regards to fish oil: allergy, indigestion, cost, etc… But my friends there is no other supplement that you can take (besides a good multi vitamin) which will give you more health bang for the buck than quality fish oil. Even the long time vegetarian writing this article takes daily fish oil supplements. It’s cheap insurance. Just do it. My apologies to those with allergies to this fine supplement.
Dr David Williams Supplement Reasearch Update 4th Ed. circa 2000
Dietary Omega 3 fatty acids for Women- Journal of Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy Jan 2007
Fish Oil: What the prescriber needs to Know-Arthritis Research and Therapy-vol 8 issue 1 2006
Smart fats- Michael A schmidt 1997
Carol Antonino, DC, CCST
Antonino Chiropractic Center
4300 Pleasant Hill Rd.
Duluth, GA 30096
770 623 3050
References for this article will be posted on our website: www.antoninochiropractic.com