The Slimy, Smelly, (but healthy) Fish Oil Story
Fish Oil….. You can just picture it, can’t you? The thick gelatinous liquid that is expelled when you squeeze a fish too hard.
It turns out, this substance has direct health benefits on dozens of illnesses including
- heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol
- prostate and breast cancer
- menstrual pain
- Alzheimer’s (see recent 2012 study about Omega 3′s and memory)
When we talk about fish oil, we are really talking about the Omega 3 fatty acid in the oil– one of the essential fatty acids that your body’s systems rely on to function. It is involved in all new cell growth and it is also concentrated in the brain to improve and maintain brain health.
“Essential” means our bodies don’t produce this fatty acid, and we need to get it from outside sources. The magic of Omega-3 is that it reduces inflammation. The inflammatory process is responsible for most of the human body’s chronic maladies such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and others. (thus the reason why aspirin works to prevent heart attacks)
In April 2009, a Harvard School of Public Health study found Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency ranked as the sixth highest killer of Americans, responsible for a whopping 72,000 to 96,000 preventable deaths yearly.
Omega 3 vs Omega 6
(This title sounds like it should be a comic book series.)
Omega 6 is also an essential fatty acid, and it is found in things like corn, eggs, beef, milk and milk products as well as polyunsaturated oils. The ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 in the diet should be 2:1. The American dietary consumption of Omega 6 fatty acids has increased 10 fold over the past 30 years, and the ratio is now 20:1. Omega 6 fatty acids increase inflammation. Are you getting the picture?
An increase in Omega 6 and decrease in Omega 3 in the diet has contributed to a rise in all the chronic illnesses that Omega 3 prevents.
What do you mean, “so what?”
Obviously, we need to increase our intake of Omega 3 and decrease Omega 6.
To decrease Omega 6:
- limit corn products (Genetically modified corn products….much coming from China… make up a large portion of the American diet) and that includes corn oil..ditch those corn chips and corn flakes
- limit dairy (see here for milk alternatives)
- limit eggs and egg products or eliminate them
- limit industry beef and chicken or eliminate them
- limit soybean oil, safflower oil, and other polyunsaturated oils and switch to olive oil, a monounsaturated oil which is neutral
Because of recent strong studies in the last several years, we have started telling our cardiac patients to use more olive oil and less vegetable oils (safflower, sunflower etc.). This is the complete opposite of what they have been told for the past 20 years….(no wonder people lose their confidence in the medical profession)
To increase Omega 3:
- increase fish intake-mackrel, sardine, or salmon to 2-3 x week
- increase deep green leafy vegetables–spinach, kale, greens
- algae supplements
- if you eat beef, use grass-fed beef
- include fish oil capsules in your daily regimen
- walnuts are rich in Omega 3 (see post on nuts here)
If you are vegan, you can get the Omega 3 from Flax seed oil capsules, but the body has to work a bit harder to make the useable fatty acid complex and it may not be as useful in your body as fish oil, but it is a good alternative. (vegans usually eat more whole grains, vegetables, and nuts, and so may not need the flax seed oil supplement in general)
There are blood tests that will tell you the ratio of Omega 6: Omega 3 in your blood. these tests can be done at home and mailed in for results. I have not tried these, but they were featured on Dr Oz. It’s not enough just to measure the Omega 3, as some tests do, but you must measure the ratio of Omega 3:6.
A bit about Omega 3 fish oil capsules
Fish Oil capsules are a great way to get the much needed Omega 3 fatty acids that our bodies need. The great news is, you can start to see results with decreased inflammation just days after starting the fish oil.
Not all fish oils are equal.
- Some make their fish oil from all kinds of fish–sardines, mackerel, salmon, tuna, and anything else they can catch in the wild…or in a fish farm. Farmed fish have a lot more contaminants, pesticides, and PCB’s (pollution by-product) and larger fish, like tuna, have more mercury.
- In order to remove the contaminants, most companies put their fish oil through a process called molecular distillation. This process uses high heat and chemicals to break apart the Omega 3 chain, and essentially gives you the important parts of the fatty acid in pieces. ( I don’t feel great about “processed” anything.) Not the best way for your body to use it, but better than nothing.
- most add vitamin E to keep the oil from going rancid. Most will say on the bottle: refrigerate after opening.
In my search for a truly great fish oil product, I found Wholemega by New Chapter.
I will tell you I do not own any New Chapter Stock, nor do I sell this product, and I am not getting paid in any way by them to say how great they are. I’m not even giving you a link…you’ll have to google it yourself so I can’t be accused of promotion.
Here’s what I know about this product:
- the fish used for the oil are all salmon and they are all from wild caught Alaskan salmon–the best in the world.
- they use the part of the salmon that is left after it is cut into fillets for human consumption.
- they don’t process the oil in any way. This means that you get it in pure unrefined form, the way you would if you ate the fish.
- because it is as intended in the fish, the Omega 3 also has astaxanthin, which is a powerful anti-oxidant that is present because of what the salmon eat.
- because it is the oil as intended in the fish, Vitamin D is present in a natural form
- they use rosemary and oregano, two natural powerful preservatives in their oil. It does not need to be refrigerated.
- the Alaskan wild salmon is extremely low (lower than California’s proposed levels) in contaminants and mercury, and therefore does not need to be processed.
- the salmon are harvested in a sustainable method
In short, it is the oil exactly as nature intended. Taking the Wholemega fish oil capsules once daily is the same as eating a serving size of salmon 3 x week.
Listen to a podcast about it here.
If you take anything away from this post it should be the following
- increase your sources of Omega 3 fatty acids in whichever way works for you….whether that is by eating more veggies or fish or capsules.
- try to reduce your intake of Omega 6 to avoid the inflammatory process that may put you at risk for dozens of chronic illnesses.
- if you decide to take a fish oil capsule, research it so you know what you are taking.
- Please talk to your doctor if you decide to take any supplement as the fish oils can interfere with some medications particularly blood thinning agents.
This blog is not meant to treat or give medical advice–this is my opinion as I have researched it.
Thanks for reading!! Live healthy
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