Omega-3: At the heart of good health

Omega-3 fatty acids are a wonder food for your health. They improve heart function and aid disease prevention

bottle of supplementsFor years, fat has been the bogeyman of bad health. Increasingly, however, research is showing that not all fats are the same. There are some good fats too; the ones which our bodies need to function better. They help absorb important vitamins like vitamin A for good eyesight, vitamin D for strong bones and vitamin E for immunity.

Some fats found in vegetable oils, nuts and fish, help fight cholesterol build up in the arteries. This reduces your risk of heart disease. One of the most prominent of these good fats is Omega-3. It is also termed as an essential fatty acid and has endless benefits. It can promote and preserve the heart and brain functions, ensure normal growth and development; protect from various diseases like cancer and even help women and their foetus during pregnancy.

An all-rounder

Individuals who have had a heart attack because of high cholesterol, always think that non-vegetarian food is a ‘no-no’ for them after the attack. Until the cardiologist says, “You can have boiled/steamed fish 2-3 times a week”. Why fish? That’s because fish is a wonderful source of good fats, especially Omega-3. Many studies support the fact that eating fish gives your heart and blood vessels an advantage. This translates into fewer risks of fatal heart attacks. Eating fish regularly lowers triglyceride, increases HDL or good cholesterol, reduces the tendency towards formation of abnormal clots and prevents irregular heart beats or arrhythmia. Fish fat also lowers blood pressure in patients suffering from hypertension.

Omega-3 fatty acids also have powerful anti-inflammatory effects, and thus offer relief in asthma, sinusitis, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and other inflammatory conditions. This wonder fatty acid also plays a significant role in preventing cancer. It also helps patients of depression, schizophrenia, manic depression, mood instabilities and bipolar disorders.

Sources of Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be manufactured by the body and hence must be obtained from food. It can be found in fish and fish oil, all green leafy vegetables, flax seed, hemp, walnuts and a variety of other sources.

Omega-3 supplements

Fish has the advantage of supplying a meal as well as Omega-3 fatty acids. However, there are concerns over levels of mercury, PCBs and dioxins found in some fish; the content of which varies according to their location, season and type of fish. These concerns are addressed through a refining process. Fish-source supplements are also acceptable to all people, including vegetarians and those who don’t eat fish.

Fish oil supplements and oily fish are the best source of effective Omega-3 fatty acids. Easy to take [any time, anywhere] and provides ‘fresh’ Omega-3 because they have a longer shelf life than Omega-3 fortified foods such as milk. It is a good idea to take a daily dose of Omega-3 to maintain good health.

Protect your head and heart with Omega-3

By RYAN Harrison

sad girlA new study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine suggests that depression increases the risk of heart disease more than genetics.

Recent research also suggests that depression may be caused by inflammation in the brain as a direct result of an imbalanced diet. David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD, co-founder of the Centre for Complementary Medicine at the University of Pittsburg Medical Centre, US, and author of The Instinct to Heal: Curing Stress, Anxiety, and Depression Without Drugs and Without Talk Therapy, has taken depression and other mood disorders head on. He suggests you can treat depression successfully with something as remarkably unremarkable as Omega-3 fatty acids.

Essential fatty acids [also called EFAs] are ‘essential’ because your body cannot manufacture them, yet you require them to live. There are two related types of EFAs: Omega-3s [alpha-linolenic acid] and Omega-6s [Linoleic acid]. In general, Omega-6s come primarily from grains and can be found in most vegetable oils and animal fat. Though you can get Omega-3s in some seeds or nuts, the highest concentrations are available in algae, plankton, and other sea sources, that usually find their way to us via fish and other seafood that eat these sea-plants and accumulate the fatty acids in their flesh. Servan-Schreiber maintains that we consume far more Omega-6s than -3s, and this has significant deleterious results, especially on our brains.

Relatively high doses of Omega-3s [1-3gm/day] are required to benefit from their anti-inflammatory and anti-depressive effects; a nutritional consultant will be able to help you choose and use a good Omega-3 supplement.

Studies have shown that an entire range of symptoms of depression improve with adequate supplementation of Omega-3s. So, if you’re feeling bluer than blue but don’t want to be hooked onto prescription medications for life, try Omega-3 supplements.

Ryan N Harrison is a holistic health educator and consultant in private practice. He holds a post-graduate degree in transpersonal psychology and is a certified nutritional consultant, quantum-touch practitioner; and advanced practitioner of Emotional Freedom Techniques. He also teaches and lectures in online and traditional settings. He lives in California, US.

Excerpted from Beat Moody blues with omega-3 by Ryan Harrison, published in November 2006 issue of Complete Wellbeing.