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We Know Omega 3 Fatty Acids Are Heart Healthy... But What Are The Facts?

Saturday, September 24, 2011
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To begin with, there are three major types of omega 3 fatty acids that are ingested in foods and used by the body:

  • Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

Once eaten, the body converts ALA to EPA and DHA, the two types of omega-3 fatty acids more readily used by the body. Extensive research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and help prevent risk factors associated with chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.

The American Heart Association recommends consumption of:

  • Two servings of fish (particularly fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon) per week for persons with no history of coronary heart disease.
  • At least one serving of fish daily for those with known coronary heart disease

Approximately 1g per day of Eicosapentaenoic acid plus Docosahexaenoic acid is recommended for cardio-protection. [Higher dosages of omega-3 fatty acids are required to reduce elevated triglyceride levels (2 to 4 g per day)]

AHA also recommends eating tofu and other forms of soybeans, canola, walnut and flaxseed, and their oils. These contain alpha-linolenic acid (LNA). The extent of this modification is modest and controversial, however. More studies are needed to show a cause-and-effect relationship between alpha-linolenic acid and heart disease.

In addition to the dietary sources described, EPA and DHA can be taken in the form of fish oil capsules (Please consult your health care provider before doing so). But the supplements should be made by established companies who certify that their products are free of heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium. Different types of fish contain variable amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, and different types of nuts or oil contain variable amounts of a-linolenic acid. Fish oils contain approximately 9 calories per gram of oil.

The question that arises now is, what about individuals who consume even more servings of Fish? The answer is. the clinical significance of elevations in LDL cholesterol resulting from high-dose fish oil therapy remains unclear. Another aspect of significance is to maintain an appropriate balance of omega-3 and omega-6 in the diet. A healthy diet should consist of roughly 2 - 4 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids.

In a nut-shell, one of the best ways to help prevent and treat heart disease is to eat a low-fat diet and to replace foods rich in saturated and trans-fat with those that are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (including omega-3 fatty acids).

Look forward to input from those who can contribute further information on Omega 3's and Omega 6's.



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User Comments

19 August, 2011 | Tanmay | Reply

Tanmay Research on omega 3 from Krill oil and published in `Nutrition & Metabolism' shows that it has many benefits.
Anti-arrhythmic: counteracting or preventing cardiac arrhythmia
Anti-thrombotic: tending to prevent thrombosis (a blood clot within a blood vessel)
Anti-atherosclerotic: preventing fatty deposits and fibrosis of the inner layer of your arteries from forming
Anti-inflammatory: counteracting inflammation (heat, pain, swelling, etc.).
Further, omega-3 fat appears to improve the endothelial function, a major factor in promoting the growth of new blood vessels.
Now Vegetarians and those who do not eat fish must ensure they get sufficient Omega 3 fatty acids from other sources.

15 March, 2011 | Omnivore | Reply

Omnivore PUFAs(both omega 6 and omega 3) are only required in small amounts by the body. While oily fish are excellent sources of omega 3's, they have a LOT more MUFAs and some SFAs as well. There is no perfect ratio of omega 6: omega 3(a 1:1 to a 5:1 is preferred)but the current ratio is way overboard(10:1 to 30:1).

"In a nut-shell, one of the best ways to help prevent and treat heart disease is to eat a low-fat diet and to replace foods rich in saturated and trans-fat with those that are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (including omega-3 fatty acids)"

A low fat diet is unhealthy for most people. Fats are vital for the proper functioning of the body. There is no correlation between total fat or saturated fat intake and heart disease. Saturated fat should never be clubbed with trans fats. Saturated fat is super healthy, probably the best kind of fat. MUFAs are super healthy too. PUFA's in small amounts are essential. If one eats a natural diet, PUFA's will always be low. The human race never consumed high PUFA seed oils except for the last 100 odd years. Most of the naturally available fats that were consumed were either rich in MUFA or SFA or both. Fish, Olive oil, nuts are all rich in MUFA with some SFA and PUFA. Lard and Tallow are rich in MUFA and SFA and small amounts in lard and hardly any in tallow of PUFA. Butter and Coconut oil are rich in SFA, some MUFA and tiny amounts of PUFA. When the totality of most traditional diets are taken(i.e fat, carb, protein) the calories from PUFA are not that much. MUFA and/or SFA contribute much more in a traditional diet. Traditional diets had fewer cases of heart disease compared to modern diets.

22 December, 2010 | Vijayalakshmi Iyengar | Reply

Vijayalakshmi Iyengar A high consumption of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which are found in most types of vegetable oil, may increase the likelihood that postmenopausal women will develop breast cancer according to a study published in The International Journal of Cancer - Nov 2008
Sr Dietitian

13 October, 2010 | Sujatha | Reply

Sujatha We have about 5 almonds and two walnuts along with some raisins and one date in our cereal almost everyday. I use about 30-40 gms of oil (its either sunflower, safflower or olive oil) in our cooking in a day. Is this good enough good fats in a day. We are vegetarians. Is there something else that I should include to get good fats in the diet. Our recent health check reports are all normal.

19 August, 2010 | Vijayalakshmi | Reply

Vijayalakshmi Despite chromium occurring in a wide variety of foods, many foods contain only 1 or 2 micrograms (mcg) of chromium per serving. In addition, food processing methods often remove the naturally occurring chromium. Thereby getting sufficient amount of chromium in the diet can be difficult. Food analysis tools for Chromium is also difficult to come by so data on content in different foods is also very minimal. Foods rich in chromium are brewer's yeast, oysters, liver, whole grains, bran cereals, and potatoes. It is however known that 2 cups of raw onion has 24.80 mcg Cr, 1 cup of ripe tomatoes has 9mcg. So ensure you eat foods rich in chromium in your daily diet to get sufficient amounts.

15 July, 2010 | dating agency | Reply

dating agency Thanks for giving the information.

28 July, 2009 | Anju | Reply

Anju Please could you give names of fish varieties available in India that are high in these fats.
Thank you.

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