Omega 3 essential fats are one of the most well researched and beneficial nutrients. From nourishing the skin to promoting heart and brain health, their positive effects seem endless.
Why are omega 3 fats so important?
Every cell in the body requires omega 3 to function normally. These fats exert powerful anti inflammatory effects and are essential for healthy brain function. They are necessary for heart health, maintaining healthy blood pressure and normal levels of blood triglycerides. Omega 3 fatty acids are also essential for healthy, glowing skin - whenever I see clients who are suffering with dry skin the first thing I do is supplement them with a high dose of omega 3 fish oils. In many cases their skin improves dramatically in just a couple of weeks.
We are constantly learning more about the endless beneficial effects of omega 3 fatty acids.
Where do I get omega 3?
The best dietary source of omega 3 is oily fish such as anchovies, salmon, mackarel and sardines. A small number of vegan foods such as flax seeds and walnuts contain omega 3 but they are not present in the active forms - EPA and DHA.
Unfortunately however, eating oily fish alone isn't enough to provide optimal levels of omega 3. For an average healthy person to consume an optimal level it's estimated they would have to eat the equivalent of (per week):
15 servings of salmon or
25 servings of cod or
75 servings of lobster
Therefore the best way to optimise your intake of omega 3 is to take supplements.
"I'm not keen on swallowing pills, it doesn't seem natural..."
Some people feel that swallowing capsules is not a natural way to ingest omega 3. Interestingly, omega 3 expert Dr Ricardo Pina points out that given the levels of harmful contaminants (such as mercury, DCBs and dioxins) in the fish we eat today, taking a purified fish oil that's had contaminants removed could be argued to be more natural than eating toxin laden fish.
It's understood that our ancestors in Paleolithic times were able to consume a far greater quantity of Omega 3 from the fish they ate. When the earth was cooler, animals needed to protect themselves from the cold. To do this, fish retained higher levels of fat as insulation and therefore when humans ate the fish, they benefitted from this significant Omega 3 intake. Today our earth is warmer and so fish don't need to hold onto their body fat in such high quantities to survive.
Another factor to consider is that much of the fish in supermarkets today is not wild, but farmed. What a fish is fed contributes significantly to the levels and types of fat they contain - cheap feeds often skew the normal, healthy ratios of fat in fish, reducing the omega 3 content significantly.
One final benefit of taking omega 3 as a supplement is that specific high quality fish oil supplements are enteric coated. This protects them from potential degradation by the stomach meaning they are optimally absorbed once they enter the gut.
How much omega 3 should I take?
Based on research collated and carried out by Dr Barry Sears, the recommended doses are as follows:
For healthy individuals: 2.5g per day
For obese individuals or those with diabetes or heart disease: 5g per day
To treat chronic pain: 7.5g per day
To treat neurological disease: >10g per day
It is worth seeking advice from a qualified and experienced nutrition practitioner who can advise you on the right dose for you.
It's also important to note that certain medications, particularly blood thinning medications, are contraindicated with Omega 3. If you are in any doubt consult your doctor before you start taking Omega 3 supplements.
How do I find a good quality omega 3 supplement?
The best way to know that you're taking a high quality fish oil supplement is to check the International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) website. A five star rating ensures that your fish oil contains a high concentration of omega 3 fats and the absolute lowest levels of oxidation and harmful contaminants.
I recommend Enerzona's Omega 3 RX or Renew Life's Super Critical Omega - both of which are enteric coated, highly concentrated and have a five star IFOS ratings.