Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fish Oil, Worth the Hype??

Over the past two years everyone has been bombarded with hearing “fish oil” and “omega-3′s”. So, why all the hype?
Fish oil contains 2 omega-3 fatty acids (DHA & EPA) that your body cannot make on it’s own. The body can only make these important fatty acids from ALA, which is found in foods like flaxseed and nuts. However, the % conversion of ALA->EPA->DHA is limited. EPA & DHA are incredibly important to your body because they are integral in the makeup of the brain, the retina of the eye, regulating cell & cardiovascular function, growth & development, etc. So… if you are deficient in these important omega-3′s, you may suffer serious consequences.

Most people think fish oil is just beneficial for those with cardiovascular disease. While most of the evidence points to this relationship, there are numerous other uses for fish oil. In many studies, taking fish oil has shown to lower triglycerides, improve cardiac function and reduce risk of sudden death, improve brain function (eg: dementia, alzheimer’s), help improve depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, RA, protect the kidneys, preventing visual decline related with age, along with other benefits.

The bottom line is that most studies point to fish oil being beneficial for the body. Even though I am young and healthy, I still take one fish oil tablet each day for all the benefits associated. I do consume a generally healthy diet, but there are some weeks I don’t consume enough servings of fish (or ALA) to get the recommended amounts of DHA & EPA. I always advise getting nutrition from food instead of supplements, but when it comes to the omega-3′s, it can be quite the challenge even for the healthiest of eaters (and cost $$).

DOSAGE: For people with CVD, fish oil dosage can be upwards from 1-6 grams a day. The recommendation is to consume 500 mg of EPA & DHA/day, which can be met by 2 servings of salmon/week or 3 servings of rainbow trout. The content of omega-3′s in fish can vary greatly (15-20%), so my recommendation is to try to consume at least 2 servings/week of fatty fish.

If you can’t consume the recommended amount of fish each week, I recommend you speak with your doctor to decide whether you should start taking a supplement, and if so, how much. Be aware that there are negative side effects with taking fish oil as it can interact with other meds, and too much can cause excessive bleeding and even increase the risk of stroke.

NOTE: Be sure to speak with your doctor before taking any new supplements.


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