Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) are polyunsaturated fats that are grouped into two families – the Omega 6’s and the Omega 3’s. The Omega 3 fatty acids are a form of polyunsaturated fats, one of four basic types of fat that the body derives from food you eat. (Cholesterol, saturated fat, and monounsaturated fat are the others).
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are good for you, that’s both Omega 3 and 6. Omega 3 fish oil is found primarily in cold water fish, while omega 6 is found mostly in grains, ‘essential fatty acids’ (EFA’s) because without them we die.
There are 3 different types of Omega 3s. The first two – Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) & Docosahexanoic acid (DHA), are both found primarily in oily cold-water fish such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel. Plant derived foods rarely contain EPA or DHA.
The third type of omega 3 is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is found primarily in dark green leafy vegetables, walnuts, and certain vegetable oils (canola, soybean, flaxseed / linseed, olive). Although ALA has different effects on the body than EPA and DHA do, the body has enzymes that can convert ALA to EPA. All three of these fatty acids are very important to human health.
Why Do We Need to Supplement Our Fish Oil / Omega 3 Levels?
Western diets contain very little Omega 3 fatty acid. Hydrogenation, the process used to give foods a long shelf life, removes these essencial fatty acids from our usual suprmarket food.
It is believed by many scientists that a major reason for the high rates of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and some forms of cancer, is the very large imbalance between our intake of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids. Over the generations our diets have changed from
The omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil help to re-balance our large intake of omega 6 fatty acids. When the omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are out of balance, the body releases chemicals that increase inflammation. People appear to produce more of these inflammatory chemicals when experiencing mental stress. When the omega fatty acids levels are unbalanced, inflammatory response to stress appears to be amplified.
Although we do need both omega 3s and omega 6s it is becoming clear that an excess (imbalance) of omega 6 fatty acids can have dire consequences. This is why you often need to re-balance your diet with Omega 3 fish oil supplements.
Omega 3 Fish Oil and Arthritis Joint Pain
Research has shown that supplementing your diet with omega 3 fish oils can result in a significant reduction in joint inflammation, this reduces morning stiffness and lowers the number of painful joints in rheumatoid arthritis patients. Omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in cooking oils and margarine), have been found to make rheumatoid arthritis symptoms worse.
Daily supplementation with around 2.7 grams of EPA and 1.8 grams of DHA can help reduce the number of painful and tender joints. Some studies have also concluded that arthritis patients who took fish oils could eliminate or sharply reduce their use of NSAIDs and other arthritis drugs.
Clinical trials have shown that Omega 3 fish oil supplementation is effective in the treatment of many disorders including rheumatoid arthritis.
Omega 3 Fish oil also helps to block the formation of joint-destroying cytokine called leukotriene B(4), as do certain ginger oil extracts.
Other Health Benefits of Omega Fish Oil
Large-scale population (epidemiologic) studies and clinical trials have shown that fish oil supplements can help with…
- Helps prevent heart attacks
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ulcerative colitis
- Dangerous abnormal heart rhythms
- Raynaud’s disease
- Atrokes in people with known cardiovascular disease
- Slows the buildup of atherosclerotic plaques (“hardening of the arteries”)
- Lowers blood pressure slightly.
- Helps prevent depression.
- Improve brain function at the very simplest level, by improving blood flow.
(Omega 3 fish oil doesn’t cure any of the above list – but proper levels of Omega 3 in your body will help prevent the symptoms building into a serious condition.)
Flax Seed Oil for Omega 3 fatty Acids
Both fish and flax seed are excellent sources of omega 3 fatty acids, but fish is generally the better source. The reason fish oil is a better source is that the type of Omega 3 fatty acid found in Flax seed is ALA, and this type of omega fatty acid needs to be converted by your body into other types – DHA, EPA. This conversion doesn’t always take place efficiently, this means is that for people who rely on sources like flax seed for their omega 3’s, they may not be getting the right levels of DHA and EPA if their bodies don’t convert it well.
However, if you are a vegetarian then flax seed oil and other plant sources of omega 3 fatty acids should be included in your diet, such as leafy greens like spinach, nuts like almonds, etc.
BTW. Cod liver oil is not the same as omega 3 fish oil. Cod liver oil is extracted from cod liver and is an excellent source of vitamins A and D. Omega 3 Fish oils are extracted from the tissues (flesh) of fatty fish. Fish oils contain very little vitamin A and D, but cod liver oil does contain EPA and DHA, but at much lower levels than Fish oil. However, you would probably exceed the recommended daily intake of vitamins A and D if you were to try to obtain therapeutic amounts of EPA and DHA from cod liver oil.
When taking Glucosamine Chondroitin supplement you should always keep your doctor informed.