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Omega 3's, EPA DHA and ALA -Where Are You Getting Your EPA DHA From? Restaurants, Grocery Stores?

Aug 27, 2007
There is no question we need these 3 essential PUFA's (polyunsaturated fatty acids). Our bodies need Omega 3's derived from plant sources (ALA) and Omega 3's (EPA DHA) derived from marine sources in an equal balance. An important note: Omega 3's derived from plant sources are converted in our bodies to Omega 6's. Why is this so important?

According to Dr. Joseph Hibbeln, National Institutes of Health, "Not all polyunsaturates are the same. Omega 6 fatty acids from seed oils -eventually the body converts them to a compound called arachidonic acid and arachidonic acid is good in low amounts but in high amounts it makes a lot of inflammatory compounds that make your joints ache, compounds that increase inflammation in your blood stream and leads to arterial sclerosis". The critical distinction is the amount we consume in seed oils for the higher the amount, the more excessive inflammation and arachidonic acid.

How much Omega 3 ALA's are Americans consuming? Data collected by the USDA from 1909 to 2000, show that "Omega 6's were a very small tenth of a percent or hundredth of a percent of the calories in the US diet in evolution and at the turn of the century. Now they are 20% of all calories in the US diet. Where do you find it? Every time you pick up a pre-manufactured food and it says vegetable oil. Soybean oil is called the lubricant of the food industry and it literally is", according to Dr. Hibbeln.

It is more than alarming that in the last 60 years of the evolution of the American diet the ratio of our consumption of ALA to EPA and DHA from fish is 9 to one in favor of ALA. In our evolutionary days this percentage was equal, one to one. A typical American diet contains 11 to 30 times more Omega 6 than Omega 3 fatty acids. "The general balance between Omega 6 and Omega 3 should be 1:1", according to University of Maryland Medicine.

Proponents of flax seed oil (ALA) state our bodies convert ALA into EPA and DHA and while this is true, the conversion percentages are small - 5-10% for EPA and 2-5% for DHA which is highly affected by other factors, age, gender, medication usage. Supplying our body's need for EPA and DHA through an ALA source was once a good recommendation until we began lubricating foods excessively with seed oils for better taste and longer shelf life and systematically stripping fish from out diets to balance the fatty acid cart.

Wange C. Harris, WS, and colleagues at Tufts University, Boston, Mass, commenting on an evidence-based study, minces no words."Evidence suggests that increased consumption of n-3 FA's (fatty acids) from fish or fish oil supplements, but not of alpha-linolenic acids (ALA) reduces the rates of all-cause mortality, cardiac and sudden death, and possibly stroke."

The link to our excessive intake of Omega 3 ALA being the culprit behind the rise in chronic inflammation and diet-related disease is researched and established. The key here is excessive ALA consumption, not the recommended healthy level our bodies require. If your eating pattern is one of fast foods, sit down restaurants, prepackaged foods, you are consuming excessive amounts of Omega 3 ALA. If you are seldom consuming fish, your body's level of fatty acids is dangerously tipped to create an environment of excessive inflammation.

How bad is excessive inflammation other than the obvious that we hurt from it? It is now established inflammation is at the core of every diet-related disease and the culprit behind the rise in 3 out of 4 American being either in pain, disease or depressed. Not sure yet? Just two years ago, the statistics were 2 out of 3 Americans.

As the information came forth of our critical need for Omega 3 EPA DHA sourced from fish as opposed to low converting EPA and DHA from Omega 3 ALA, our food manufacturers were quick to seize on adding Omega 3 to labels. Market studies abound of the rise in sales of food products labeled Omega 3. One such study exists at a pricey cost of $2,500 that suggests ways retailers can increase their sales by the addition of Omega 3 to their products and their labeling. It is estimated that by 2011, retail sales of foods and beverages enriched with Omega 3's will reach more than $7 billion. Caution: If a product says it has Omega 3 added or EPA and DHA yet the ingredients on the label show seed oil, you are adding more of what your body does not need.

This distinction is so critical, it bears repeating. The abundance we are consuming of Omega 3 ALA (seed and plant oils) is the culprit behind excessive inflammation regardless of any benefit contained from the conversion to EPA DHA. The Food and Drug Administration allows labeling to boast the presence of Omega 3's, but only foods that contain EPA or DHA can claim heart benefits. Again, for it bears repeating, if the labeling says EPA and DHA added for heart health, and the ingredient shows more seed oil it is not what you want to add.

As the information of our need for Omega 3 EPA DHA sourced from fish blazed across our awareness, concerns of consuming PCB's from ocean fish caused Americans to turn to fish oil supplements. Food grade fish oil capsules sprang upon shelves nationwide as fish oil suppliers, resellers and retailers began capitalizing by rushing to supply the demand faster than health conscious Americans could purchase them.

As a result, burping a fish oil product became synonymous with taking one as has a telltale taste left lingering in the mouth causing suppliers to now add "burpless" fish oil to their labeling. Different flavored Omega 3 products have begun appearing while prescription fish oil, Omacor, with reported incidents of indigestion and burping, failed the prick test.

The source of the fish came under scrutiny as research clearly showed the oil of a fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and anchovies contain higher levels of EPA and DHA as opposed to lean fish such as white fish and cod. And it is those higher levels of EPA and DHA that promote a change to our health.

While it may seem challenging today to find a good source of Omega 3, there are several things to look for. The most immediate and telling: If you burp or experience indigestion, toss it out. Pure, quality fish oil will never cause indigestion or burping. Molecular distillation is a process that requires skill performed in a pharmaceutically licensed laboratory.

To supply that quality, expect the source of the fish and the process to be reflected in the cost or the manufacturer would soon be out of business. Giving away a month's supply or a two month supply at $25.00 is cost prohibitive for quality. Look for pure, liquid fish oil that you can see, taste and feel the texture of. While it's common to add lemon herb flavoring, be cautious with products that offer flavors that might mask unpleasant odors.

The age old adage, "the proof is in the pudding" applies here, too. Any manufacturer of Omega 3 EPA DHA that has produced a quality product will have scores of testimonies readily available from real people who are incredibly happy their health has changed. If you have not seen changes in your health in a reasonable time frame, at least within 30 days at a dose of one gram a day, keep looking.

Pure, quality fish oil is a miracle to our health. As our bodies begin to balance out from the overabundance of seed oil, pain leaves as excessive inflammation comes under control. Blood pressure and cholesterol readings return to low numbers quickly. Your face will look years younger in a few short weeks as will the skin throughout your body. Brains come alive as they are finally being fed the fatty acids they need. And the most amazing benefits reported are a loss of a few pounds. If you are getting these results, you have your hands on a good product.

This isn't hard to understand or believe for we were physiologically designed to eat a lot of fish. Not a few servings a week, as a daily staple. When we finally do so, our bodies respond in the most amazing ways.
About the Author
Lois Smithers, an equestrian who suffered competition injuries, credits Omega 3 with ending painful chronic inflammation from two fractured vertebra and spent years researching Omega 3's and sea-based health solutions. Owner, Sea-Based Health, LLC. See recommended products- http://seabasedhealth.com
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