High-Potency Omega-3 Fish Oils

Helps Heart Disease,
Diabetes, Arthritis, and More

Take a stroll down most aisles at your local supermarket and you will encounter a bewildering selection of "low-fat" foods that are reputed to be healthier for your cardiovascular system than foods with a high fat content. Because cardiovascular disease is one of the leading killers in this country, many people consume these "low-fat" foods thinking this will help keep their hearts healthy. While it's true the excessive intake of saturated fats,* trans fats, and arachidonic fatty acids is linked with cardiovascular disease - as well as diabetes, some forms of cancer, and (obviously) obesity - it's not as simple as "all fat is bad" and "no fat is good," as we are led to believe.


* Saturation refers to the number of the chemical bonds of the carbon atoms in the fat. A saturated fatty acid contains a shared pair of electrons to form a single bond. Single bonds are stronger than the double bonds found in unsaturated fats. They are also more resistant to molecular damage, and more stable and less likely to become oxidized or rancid. Vegetable oils tend to be more unsaturated than animal oils.


WHAT ARE OMEGA OILS?
There are numerous types of fats, and some - the essential fatty acids (EFAs) - are absolutely vital for proper cardiovascular health. EFAs play an important role in many physiological functions. The primary EFAs are linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which act as precursors to other important EFAs that our bodies need. LA is referred to as an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), and ALA is an omega-3 superunsaturated fatty acid, meaning that it is more unsaturated that PUFA. Both are hereafter referred to as omega oils. These unsaturated omega oils are more readily available for energy after being eaten than saturated fats. Decreasing the degree of a fat's saturation increases the "mobility" of PUFAs, making them more bioavailable. These omega oils - or their derivatives - are necessary for proper health, and if they are either missing or deficient in the diet, cells can deteriorate and deficiency symptoms will gradually develop.1

FISH ARE A SUPERIOR SOURCE OF OMEGA OILS
Omega oils are found in the oil from northern marine mammals, including seals, whales, and polar bears. But fortunately, there are other sources for these vital nutrients. Since most of the clinical data available involves fish oil, it is considered a superior source of omega oils. It also has demonstrated greater safety. Omega oils obtained from vegetable sources are associated with problems involving absorption, metabolism, and rancidity. Also, vegetable omega oils have not been tested in psychiatric (mood) disorders while fish oils have.

OMEGA OIL'S MANY BENEFITS

  • Lower incidence of cardiovascular disease
  • Helps lower cholesterol
  • Improve cognitive function
  • Reduce symptoms of depression
  • Maintain general mood stability
  • Improve digestive problems
  • Reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Helps respiratory distress syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and psoriasis

The primary sources of omega oils in the human diet are various cold-water fish, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, and eel. Cold-water fish oils contain the omega oils eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which are derived from ALA. EPA and DHA are classified as long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, and are naturally part of the composition of our cells. They are especially abundant in the most biochemically active tissues in our body - brain cells, sex glands, visual receptors, and adrenal glands. EPA and DHA can be manufactured by healthy cells from ALA, which is found abundantly in plant sources, such as flax, sesame, sunflower, hemp, and other seeds. Most of the clinical data on omega oils have been done with fish oil.

FEWER HEART DEATHS ASSOCIATED WITH THE USE OF OMEGA OILS
Researchers in the Netherlands found that 30 grams of fish per day were associated with 50% fewer deaths from coronary heart disease.3 Studies in Japan and elsewhere have yielded similar results,4 indicating that certain fish oils significantly reduce the incidence and severity of cardiovascular disease. EPA and DHA have been shown to lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease in several ways. They keep our blood platelets from getting too sticky, and this helps prevent clot formation that can cause a heart attack or a stroke.5 EPA and DHA also reduce the levels of two repair proteins known as apo(a) and fibrinogen, which are involved in the proliferation of atherosclerotic plaque in our arteries. Lowered levels of these repair proteins result in less atherosclerosis, and more fully open arteries. EPA and DHA can lower high triglycerides by up to 65%, which may lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) levels.1 High LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are associated with high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart and kidney failure, strokes, and heart attacks.

OMEGA OILS' HEALTHY ROLE IN DIABETES, CANCER, AND MORE
The omega-3 fatty acids are not only necessary for proper cardiovascular health, but researchers have found that by supplementing our diets with these omega oils we may gain many other health benefits. Fish oils, especially, have been shown to offer a vast array of health benefits. They have been shown to lower the incidence of diabetes and a range of human cancers.6 Studies have found that the antitumor effect of EPA is primarily related to its suppression of cell proliferation, and the effect of DHA appears to be related to its ability to reduce apoptosis (cell suicide). These super-powered fatty acids have also been shown to improve cognitive function, reduce the symptoms of depression, and help people maintain general mood stability. Like seal oil, fish oil can reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. It can also be effective in the treatment of respiratory distress syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and psoriasis.1

OMEGA OILS HELP ARTHRITIS, CHOLESTEROL, AND DEPRESSION
A recent (and ethically controversial) study demonstrated some of the benefits that can be obtained from omega oils. Professor Linn Anne Bjelland, a researcher at the University of Bergen in West Norway, found that several spoonfuls of seal oil - which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids - each day helped people with rheumatoid arthritis to significantly reduce the severity of their symptoms. It also helped people improve digestive problems, and Bjelland also found evidence that the oil might help lower cholesterol levels.2 She said that the omega-3 fatty acids from mammals were more easily absorbed by people than similar fatty acids from fish, and that there may also be other active components in the seal oil. However, while this may be true, seals are highly intelligent marine mammals, and their slaughter for our benefit raises justifiable concerns. To address these ethical considerations Bjelland said that the seal "has few natural enemies and eats into the oceans' fish resources," although, of course, the same thing can be said about human beings.

THE EFFECTS OF DEGENERATIVE CONDITIONS AND GENETIC MUTATIONS
Degenerative conditions caused by excess cholesterol, saturated fats, and alcohol, as well as disease conditions such as diabetes, and the effects of aging (which make enzymes function less efficiently) may impair our body's ability to make EPA and DHA from the ALA in vegetable oils. This is not the problem with fish oils, which seem to allow the body to more easily absorb EPA and DHA than ALA or LA. This is because they are metabolically closer to the end products that our cells ultimately require.1 In addition, the effects of genetic mutations over generations have caused certain populations to lose their metabolic ability to convert ALA to EPA and DHA, especially among people who have traditionally lived along cold-water coasts and included fish as a staple in their diets. The number of people affected is estimated to range between 2 and 10% of the population, and these people would require a dietary source of EPA and DHA. Populations that might be affected include Norwegian, Welsh-Irish, Asian, Inuit, and West Coast North American natives.1

References

  1. Erasmus U. Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill. Vancouver, Canada: Alive Books, 1993.
  2. Anon. A little seal oil may do you good: researcher. January 4, 2001. www.reutershealth.com/frame2/arch.html
  3. Kromhout D, Bosschieter EB, de Lezenne Coulander C. The inverse relationship between fish consumption and 20-year mortality from coronary heart disease. N Engl J Med 1985;312:1205-9.
  4. Das UN. Beneficial effects(s) of n-3 fatty acids in cardiovascular diseases: but, why and how? Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids 2000;63(6):351-62.
  5. Vognild E, Elvevoll EO, Brox J, Olsen RL, Barstad H, Aursand M, Osterud B. Effects of dietary marine oils and olive oil on fatty acid composition, platelet membrane fluidity, platelet responses, and serum lipids in healthy humans. Lipids 1998 Apr;33(4):427-36.
  6. Anon. Fish oil. Altern Med Rev 2000 Dec;5(6):576-80.

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