Omega-3 Fatty Acids
According to two of the most credible nutrition authorities, the World Health Organization and the European Food Safety Authority, we should get at least a half a percent of our calories from the short-chain omega-3 ALA. That’s easy: My Daily Dozen recommendation for one tablespoon of ground flaxseeds takes care of that. Our body can then take that short-chain omega-3 and elongate it into the long-chain omega-3s EPA and DHA found in fish fat.
Why not supplement with omega-3 fish oil or just eat fish, though?
Fish oil pills have grown into a multibillion-dollar industry, thanks in part to the American Heart Association’s recommendation that individuals at high risk for heart disease should ask their physicians about omega-3 fish oil supplementation. But what does the science say?
A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at all the best randomized clinical trials evaluating the effects of omega-3 fats on life span, cardiac death, sudden death, heart attack, and stroke. These included studies not only on fish oil supplements, but also on the effects of advising people to eat more oily fish. Overall, the researchers found no protective benefit for overall mortality, heart disease mortality, sudden cardiac death, heart attack, or stroke.
After putting all the studies together, researchers concluded there was no longer justification for the use of omega-3s in everyday clinical practice.
Fish oil, even purified (“distilled”) fish oil, has been found to be contaminated with PCBs and other pollutants, so much so that taken as directed, salmon, herring, and tuna oils may exceed the tolerable daily intake of toxicity. This may help explain the studies that found adverse effects of fish consumption on cognitive function in adults and children.
Thankfully, you can get the benefits without the risks by getting long-chain omega-3s from algae instead, which is where the fish primarily get it from to begin with. By getting EPA and DHA directly from the source at the bottom of the food chain, you don’t have to worry about pollutant contamination. In fact, the algae used for supplements are just grown in tanks and never even come in contact with the ocean.
Image Credit: Jo Christian Oterhals / Flickr. This image has been modified.
Popular Videos for Omega-3 Fatty Acids
All Videos for Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Dietary Supplements for Autism
Vitamin C, vitamin D, and omega-3 fish oil supplements put to the test to improve the core symptoms of autism spectrum disorder.
Do Chia Seeds Help with Belly Fat?
The secret to the benefits of chia seeds may be that you have to grind them up.
Prescription: Nutrition Episode 3 – Spilling the Beans
I team up with chef Rich Landau and public health nutritionist Tracye McQuirter to discuss the health benefits and preparation of beans.
The Best Diet for Fibroids
The same diet that helps regulate hormones in women may also reduce exposure to endocrine-disrupting pollutants.
Which Are Better: Chia Seeds or Flax Seeds?
What effect do chia seeds have on weight loss, blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation?
Should Vegans Take DHA to Preserve Brain Function?
Learn why I recommend 250mg a day of a pollutant-free source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.
Should We Take DHA Supplements to Boost Brain Function?
Overt omega-3 deficiency is rare, but do short-term experiments on cognitive function suggest there might be an optimal DHA dose?
Is Fish “Brain Food” for Older Adults?
Why has fish consumption been associated with cognitive impairment and loss of executive function?
Vinegar & Artery Function
Sprinkling vinegar on greens may augment their ability to improve endothelial function.
Should Vegan Women Supplement with DHA during Pregnancy?
I recommend all pregnant and breastfeeding women follow the consensus guidelines to get about 200mg of preformed DHA from a pollutant-free source.
Should Pregnant & Breastfeeding Women Take DHA?
Does maternal supplementation with the long-chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA improve psychomotor, mental, visual, or physical development of infants?
Plant-Based Diets & Artery Function
The improvement of arterial function on a whole food, plant-based diet appears so pronounced that cardiac patients can achieve a 90% reduction in angina attacks.