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How Omega-3 benefits your health



Research suggests a proper dietary balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats is related to maintaining health and may have a positive impact on several diseases, such as heart disease and arthritis, while also playing a role in healthy brain development and function.{{more}}

We live in a world where increasing emphasis is being placed on taking charge of our personal health and well-being. Incorporating a balanced diet as part of a healthy lifestyle plays a key role in maintaining optimal health. In recent years, scientific research has shown that a balanced diet should include a proper ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3’s are most prevalent in cold-water, oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, herring or sardines; while Omega-6’s are common in vegetable oils, fast food and margarine. Over the last 50 years, changes in dietary habits have led to a drastic shift in the ratio of Omega-6s to Omega-3s we get from our diet. The net result, as explained by Dr. Victor Elliott, Consultant of Internal Medicine and Cardiology, University of the West Indies Hospital in Jamaica, and confirmed by other medical experts in this field, is that we are often consuming more than 10 times the amount of Omega-6’s than we are Omega-3’s. To avoid a negative impact on health, it is essential that we maintain a good omega balance, and to do this, it is crucial that we increase our intake of Omega-3.

While Omega-3 nutrients can be found in flaxseed oil, walnuts and dark green vegetables, the richest form is found in oily fish, and the American Heart Association recommends at least two servings per week. However, for various reasons, many people struggle to get this recommended intake through diet alone.

Omega-3 fish oils are a rich source of the essential fatty acids EPA (eicosopentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These are termed essential because while our bodies need them, we cannot produce them and must, therefore, obtain them from our diet or through supplementation.

Increasing evidence shows the benefits of Omega-3 for people of all ages, with the strongest clinical evidence in the cognitive, joint and heart health areas. Many studies have shown the benefits of Omega-3 for children’s brain development, in the womb and throughout the school years, and medical professionals now recognize the important role that Omega-3 plays in the healthy brain development and function of children.

This year, a Scottish clinical study indicated that Omega-3’s natural anti-inflammatory properties may benefit some Rheumatoid Arthritis patients by allowing them to reduce their non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) dosage. NSAID’s, such as aspirin, ibuprofen and others, have been shown to have serious long-term side effects, such as gastrointestinal bleeding. The study found that 39% of patients given a cod liver oil supplement, a rich source of Omega-3, were able to reduce their NSAID dosage by more than 30%.

A plethora of studies demonstrate the beneficial effects Omega-3 supplementation can have on heart health in cardiovascular patients and many doctors now actively recommend Omega-3 to their patients for having a positive impact on cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of coronary heart disease. Diabetics are also prone to developing cardiovascular disease; therefore, Omega-3 can also be beneficial to these patients.

“Omega-3 Supplementation falls within the guidelines of the American Heart Association, has benefits for all, and is strongly recommended for heart patients,” said Dr. Elliott. “Also, there are no major interactions with any other medications and no side effects with Omega-3 supplementation. I recommend a daily dose of Omega-3 to all patients, especially patients with heart problems.”

Dr. Elliott will take part in an Omega-3 live radio interview on HITZ 103.7 on May 28th 2008 at 11.30 am. There will be a discussion followed by call in questions related to Omega-3 benefits.