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Supplement Sunday : Omega 3

Updated: Nov 15



This widely talked about, widely available supplement has been around for quite a while. More recently, healthy fats such as omegas have become the centre of attention in many ways. Omegas are polyunsaturated fatty acids that our body needs for optimal health. Did I mention yet that there are SO many benefits? Lets start with the basics.


so what are omegas specifically?

  • both omega 3 and omega 6 are called our essential fatty acids (EFA’s)

  • we call the essential because we are unable to make them ourselves

  • therefore we MUST obtain them through our diet


what is the difference between omega 3 and omega 6?

the most simple way to describe it is as so:

  • omega 3 fatty acids feed more into an anti-inflammatory pathway

  • omega 6 fatty acids play more into a pro-inflammatory pathway

sources of omega 3: cold water fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, tuna, sardines), oysters, shrimp, algae, seaweed, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts


Sources of omega 6: wheat, corn, safflower oil, sunflower oil, chicken, eggs, some vegetable oils (corn, safflower, sunflower, peanut, soybean)


omegas 6s aren't always bad and can have benefits too - what is important is the ratio in our diet


the ratio of omega 6: omega 3 in our diet:

  • ideally, we should be consuming a 2:1 to 3:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 in our diet

  • however, the standard American diet leads to more of a 15:1 ratio which is far from optimal

  • this is not to say that we need to avoid all of these foods - but be more aware of what the ratio of omega 6 : omega 3 is within our diet

  • the higher the ratio – the more inflammation in our body which can lead to: heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease and other inflammatory diseases. In fact, lower ratios such as 4:1 have been associated with a 70% decreased chance of morality (Simopoulos)


so now that we have gone over the difference between the omega 3&6 we can focus in more on omega 3


the different types of omega 3s:

omega 3 fatty acids include ALA, EPA & DHA


ALA

  • can be found in plant sources : flax, chia, hemp seeds, walnuts

  • however ALA has to be converted into EPA or DHA for our body to use it for reasons other than just simply energy

EPA

  • is found in cold water fish & algae

  • it is known for its powerful anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body

  • It converts to molecules called prostaglandins and eicosanoids that regulate inflammation in our bodies

DHA

  • is also found in cold water fish & algae

  • this fatty acid is found in higher concentrations within our brain and is known for its role in brain and nervous system health


research shows omega 3 may be useful in:

  • chronic inflammation

  • heart disease : atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, high triglycerides & cholesterol

  • autoimmune diseases : rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis

  • asthma

  • pregnancy : brain and nervous system development specifically

  • reproductive health : menstrual regulation and fertility

  • skin health : acne, dry skin

  • concussion and brain health

  • cognitive health : age related decline and Alzheimer's

  • mental health : depression & anxiety

  • eye health : macular degeneration


more and more research is being done on omegas and their role in health conditions - I am excited to see what the research tells us in the future!


SOURCES:


Adams, S., Lopata, A. L., Smuts, C. M., Baatjies, R., & Jeebhay, M. F. (2019). Relationship between serum omega-3 fatty acid and asthma endpoints. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(1), 43.

Akerele, O. A., & Cheema, S. K. (2016). A balance of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids is important in pregnancy. Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism, 5, 23-33.

Balić, A., Vlašić, D., Žužul, K., Marinović, B., & Bukvić Mokos, Z. (2020). Omega-3 Versus Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in the Prevention and Treatment of Inflammatory Skin Diseases. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 21(3), 741.

Brigham, E. P., Woo, H., McCormack, M., Rice, J., Koehler, K., Vulcain, T., ... & Bose, S. (2019). Omega-3 and omega-6 intake modifies asthma severity and response to indoor air pollution in children. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine, 199(12), 1478-1486.

Calder, P. C. (2017). Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes: from molecules to man. Biochemical Society Transactions, 45(5), 1105-1115.

Cardoso, C., Afonso, C., & Bandarra, N. M. (2016). Dietary DHA and health: cognitive function ageing. Nutrition Research Reviews, 29(2), 281-294.

Chavarro, J. E., Rich-Edwards, J. W., Rosner, B. A., & Willett, W. C. (2007). Dietary fatty acid intakes and the risk of ovulatory infertility. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 85(1), 231-237.

Gaskins, A. J., & Chavarro, J. E. (2018). Diet and fertility: a review. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 218(4), 379-389.

Jump, D. B., Lytle, K. A., Depner, C. M., & Tripathy, S. (2018). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids as a treatment strategy for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Pharmacology & therapeutics, 181, 108-125.

Larrieu, T., & Layé, S. (2018). Food for mood: relevance of nutritional omega-3 fatty acids for depression and anxiety. Frontiers in physiology, 9, 1047.

Liao, Y., Xie, B., Zhang, H., He, Q., Guo, L., Subramaniapillai, M., ... & Mclntyer, R. S. (2019). Efficacy of omega-3 PUFAs in depression: a meta-analysis. Translational psychiatry, 9(1), 1-9.

Lin, S. C., & Cheifetz, A. S. (2018). The use of complementary and alternative medicine in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Gastroenterology & hepatology, 14(7), 415.

Middleton, P., Gomersall, J. C., Gould, J. F., Shepherd, E., Olsen, S. F., & Makrides, M. (2018). Omega‐3 fatty acid addition during pregnancy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (11).


Nicolaou, A. (2013). Eicosanoids in skin inflammation. Prostaglandins, leukotrienes and essential fatty acids, 88(1), 131-138.


Schwanke, R. C., Marcon, R., Bento, A. F., & Calixto, J. B. (2016). EPA-and DHA-derived resolvins' actions in inflammatory bowel disease. European journal of pharmacology, 785, 156-164.

Scorletti, E., & Byrne, C. D. (2018). Omega-3 fatty acids and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: Evidence of efficacy and mechanism of action. Molecular aspects of medicine, 64, 135-146.

Simopoulos, A. P. (2002). The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy, 56(8), 365-379.

Simopoulos, A. P. (2008). The importance of the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio in cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. Experimental biology and medicine, 233(6), 674-688.

Simopoulos, A. P. (2002). Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Journal of the American College of nutrition, 21(6), 495-505.

Sun, G. Y., Simonyi, A., Fritsche, K. L., Chuang, D. Y., Hannink, M., Gu, Z., ... & Beversdorf, D. Q. (2018). Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): An essential nutrient and a nutraceutical for brain health and diseases. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 136, 3-13.

Piccardi, N., & Manissier, P. (2009). Nutrition and nutritional supplementation: Impact on skin health and beauty. Dermato-endocrinology, 1(5), 271-274.

Pizzini, A., Lunger, L., Demetz, E., Hilbe, R., Weiss, G., Ebenbichler, C., & Tancevski, I. (2017). The role of omega-3 fatty acids in reverse cholesterol transport: A review. Nutrients, 9(10), 1099.

Welty, F. K. (2020). Dietary treatment to lower cholesterol and triglyceride and reduce cardiovascular risk. Current Opinion in Lipidology, 31(4), 206-231.

Von Schacky, C., & Harris, W. S. (2007). Cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Cardiovascular research, 73(2), 310-315.


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