Hopefully after reading the first installment of Should You Supplement? you have gotten your diet on track, lost energy is now restored and your body is feeling healthier than ever. It is human nature to look for something more than what we are currently doing to help us gain an edge and get us where we want to be a little faster. In the case of health, physique and performance it comes in the form of supplements.
There are literally thousands of supplements out there touting quick results ranging from weight loss to muscle gain. Some do work, some don’t work at all and some are downright harmful to your body because they have not been tested and deemed safe for consumption by the FDA. My goal is to give you the facts from research and readings I have done over the years as well as my own personal practices. As I mentioned in the first article Supplementation is not Substitution nor should it be about a quick fix for something. Supplementation should aide in your overall health and well being and if your diet is balanced then adding some additional nutrients that are hard to obtain and maintain even through a healthy diet can be beneficial.
One of these beneficial supplements is omega-3 fatty acids. I am sure many of you have heard some of the many benefits concluded through scientific research. Some of these benefits include:
- Cardiovascular Health
- Protection from Stroke and Heart Attack
- Better Brain Function
- Reduction of Breast, Colon and Prostate Cancer
- Decrease in Depression, Attention Deficit Disorder and Aggression
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties
It is possible to consume foods that have a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids; however studies have shown that Americans do not consume enough of these foods. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found Americans consume far too much of one kind of essential fatty-acids (EFA) (omega-6 EFAs found in most polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, cottonseed oil, and soybean oil, etc) but not enough of another kind of EFA (omega-3 EFAs found in fish, fish oils, eggs from properly fed chickens, dark green vegetables and herbs, and oils from certain seeds such as flax and chia, nuts such as walnuts and in small amounts in all whole grains.) (Am J Clin Nutr 1991 54:438-63).
Mary Enig, of the Weston Price Foundation, emphasizes some of the negative health effects of high levels of omega-6 and inadequate omega-3 intake, “Research has shown too much omega-6 in one’s diet creates an imbalance that can interfere with production of important prostaglandins (saturated fatty acids that are involved in the control of inflammation and body temperature). This disruption can result in increased tendency to form blood clots, inflammation, high blood pressure, irritation of the digestive tract, depressed immune function, sterility, cell proliferation, cancer and weight gain.”
Inflammation is actually determined by the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. Many of the wonderful benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are negated if you consume too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3; thus throwing off the ratios between the two. That’s why it’s essential to make sure that you’re getting enough omega-3 and that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is optimal or it can lead to many health problems.
The exact ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is up for debate; however there is an optimal range where the ratio is almost even. The problem lies in where the consumption of the typical American diet severely shifts this ratio towards a higher omega-6 number. According to health and nutrition expert Jonny Bowden (hlink) “The ideal ratio is between 1:1 and 4:1. More typically, those consuming a Western diet get between 15:1 and 25:1.”
To balance your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio Enig suggests to, “Add 3-9g of fish oil each day while reducing omega 6 fats…” This strategy should take care of your omega 6:3 ratio.
I personally take her suggestion to heart and supplement with a high quality fish oil. There are a few good brands and plenty of bad ones. Depending on where the manufactures get their fish makes all the difference in the world. Cheap fish make for low quality and possibly toxic fish oil.
The brand I use is Carlson Very Finest Fish Oil because it “Comes from deep, cold, ocean-water fish and the product is regularly tested (using AOAC international protocols) for freshness, potency and purity by an independent, FDA-registered laboratory and has been determined to be fresh, fully potent and free of detectable levels of mercury, cadmium, lead, PCB’s and 28 other contaminants.”
I prefer the liquid formula because it is much denser than the pill form. In two teaspoons, I can get over 3 grams of high quality omega-3, where I would have to take 5-6 soft gels to equal that amount. Many people don’t want to take fish oil because of the “fishy taste.” Carlson is one of the better tasting fish oil I have tried. One of my clients swears by the orange flavor because it tastes like Tang without any fishy reflux (which is a pleasant side effect of lower quality fish oils). I have found it to be the most economical when getting it through vitacost.
So we have our healthy diet in check and now we have found ways of optimizing our omega 3:6 ratios for optimal health. In the next post I will talk about another supplement that may also contribute greatly to your personal well being.