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Fish Oils: Fad or cutting edge research?

iStock_Fish Oils_LargeOmega-3 fatty acids are essential healthy fats the human body cannot produce but are required for functions like controlling blood clotting, forming cell membranes, absorbing vitamins, and keeping skin and hair healthy, among many other functions. There are two main categories of omega-3s: ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which comes from vegetarian sources like flaxseed, nuts, and various vegetable, nut, and seed oils, and EPA and DHA (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid), which we can get from fish and algae. Salmon, herring, mackerel, and anchovies are particularly good sources of these EPA and DHA omega-3s. Although they’re often lumped together, EPA and DHA do different jobs in the body. EPA works as an anti-inflammatory agent throughout the body, including the brain. DHA is essential in the maintenance and creation of fluid cell membranes. Both types of omega-3 fatty acid can reduce triglyceride levels and increase “good” HDL cholesterol in the body. Fish oil’s alleged benefits have made it a one-stop shop for a number of medical problems. Because of its beneficial associations with lowering triglycerides and increasing good cholesterol, fish oil has a strong link to heart health, and is often recommended to those at risk of heart attacks and strokes. EPA’s link to brain blood flow means it’s become a common use for depression, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, and other brain disorders.

The body requires both omega-3s and their close cousins, omega-6 fatty acids, to function properly. These days, the average Westerner consumes between 10 and 25 times more omega-6s (usually in the form of vegetable oils) than omega-3s. Studies have shown that a ratio closer to 2:1 or even 1:1 is best for health. The imbalance of omega-6s and omega-3s can result in inflammation, which causes many of the disorders that fish oil can “cure.” In many cases, fish oil is recommended to correct the imbalanced ratio.

Although many studies recently published have denied that the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are as exaggerated as they have been claimed to be, many health professionals suggest consuming 1-2 servings per week of omega-3 plentiful fish to maintain the balance. Talk with your Wellpath doctor about our Standard Process Whole Food Supplements on your next visit!