Some new research recently questioned the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids. Hard to believe since there are thousands of studies showing the contrary.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids necessary for human health. These fats are found in cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, and other seafood including algae and krill, some plants, and nut oils. Omega 3 fatty acids have intrigued scientists ever since it was found that Greenland Eskimos rarely die from heart disease while eating a diet of fatty fish.
Research also shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation which may help lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, depression and asthma. The American Heart Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization all recommend eating fish at least 2 times a week. These fats play a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth and development. Omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be essential in building cell membranes and maintaining the connections between brain cells for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function. In fact, infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems. Recent research has shown that rates of depression, bipolar and postpartum depression are all lower when consuming more fish or taking supplementation. Children with ADHD (Attention -Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) tend to have lower omega 3 levels than their peers. Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation.
Last month, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a meta-analysis of 20 clinical trials which included about 70,000 people. They found that omega 3 fatty acids did not prevent heart attacks, strokes, or deaths from heart disease. Other studies were also completed from the New England Journal of Medicine and the Archives of Internal Medicine showing similar results in people with type 2 diabetes.
So what do we do with this conflicting research??
Anytime there is a supplement study, I interpret the results with caution. For instance, the JAMA study combined clinical trials that used different doses and sources of omega 3 fatty acids. Also, many of the subjects were already on heart medication which would dilute the impact of the results.
Diet studies are always inconsistent. It’s hard for researchers to control the diets of almost 70,000 people. I can’t even control my families diet!
When looking deeper in the studies, the JAMA authors put a strict standard for statistical significance. Using a typical standard, the results would have shown that omega 3 fatty acids were associated with a 9% reduction in cardiac deaths.
The typical American diet is higher in omega 6 fatty acids which largely consists of corn and safflower oil, cornfed beef and poultry and processed foods. The key is to improve the ratio by reducing the amount of omega 6 fatty acids while increasing omega 3’s. I recommend eating more fish than taking supplements because fish also contains protein, vitamin B12, zinc and iodine. Of course we need to be concerned about amounts of mercury in our fish, especially for pregnant women. Shrimp, salmon and tuna tend to be relatively low. Make sure to buy your fish at a responsible market that is conscious in where and what waters their fish comes from. Higher mercury content tends to be in shark, swordfish and tilefish so try to avoid these types of fish. Omega 3 supplements may have side effects such as stomach upset and burping with a fishy aftertaste, but these can be remedied with an enteric coated fish oil supplement. Doses too high (more than 3 grams) have the potential to increase risk of bleeding, so those on blood thinners need to be careful and talk to their doctors.
The choice is yours, but I see many more benefits to consuming more omega 3 fatty acids vs not.
Read more: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/omega-3-000316.htm#ixzz28Bx08sBT