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Why Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

What

Omega-3s are essential fatty acids, meaning the body needs them but can’t make them on its own. Adequate omega-3 intake is required for maintaining brain and nervous system health, improving mood and concentration, preventing and reversing inflammation, decreasing cardiovascular events, and reducing food cravings.

Why

Fish oil is helpful for many conditions, including autoimmune diseases, because it has anti-inflammatory effects through numerous paths (minimizes Th1 response and TNF alpha; supports Th3 tolerance factor, secretory IgA, and interleukin 10).

The types of omega-3s matter. Research shows the two types of omega-3s to increase consumption of for the greatest health benefits are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Therapeutic dosages are 1000mg of EPA and 500mg of DHA daily. Many people don’t meet these therapeutic levels, even with supplementation, since most supplements contain tiny doses of the above and use other omega-3s to boost the overall omega-3 count.

How

Examples of how to consume a therapeutic dosage of omega-3s per day (1000mg EPA and 500 DHA):

  • Fish oil (capsules or liquid) – look for high potency products where only 1 or 2 capsules or teaspoons daily are needed for therapeutic dosage
  • Flax oil (1 tablespoon) in combination with chia seeds (0.5-1 oz), walnuts (10 halves), and ground flax (1 tablespoon) daily

Omega-3s are also in evening primrose oil, borage oil, and algae.

Be mindful of the type and source of seafood you buy and eat. Certain kinds are high in heavy metals, such as mercury and lead. Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch to become familiar with which types of fish are safe to eat. Only buy fish oil supplements from a reputable company that avoids using fish which are high in heavy metals.

Citations:

Hirahashi, J., Kawahata, K., Arita, M. et al. Immunomodulation with eicosapentaenoic acid supports the treatment of autoimmune small-vessel vasculitis. Sci Rep 4, 6406 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/srep06406