Good or Bad: The Facts About Omega3 Fatty Acids


Authored by Sanketa Nayak in Nutrition 
Published on 11-11-2008

Well, I don’t know about you, but I do remember my mother forcing down cod liver capsules down my throat with the stern reminder that it was good for me. The oils present in the stinky smelling golden capsule were supposed to make me more intelligent and give me better skin and bones. Later on during my pregnancy, the doctor recommended cod liver capsules too for a smarter child. And I did take them but then I decided to check out whether there was any truth to the myths surrounding fish oil and its benefits.

Here’s what I found-

Fish by itself is a great source of dietary lean protein as well as beneficial group of oils called as OMEGA-3 fatty acids (also referred to as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).) If you do increase the amount of fish oil in your diet it is supposed to decrease inflammation as well as decrease your risk of getting cardiovascular disease. They are also helpful in developing good skin and hair and healthy joints. Recent studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids have a controlling effect on hypertension, depression, joint pains, arthritis, skin ailments, varieties of rheumatoid disease, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A few researchers have also stated that omega-3s can boost the immune system as well as protect against the early onset of chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. It also seems to affect bleeding and clotting and thins out blood.

But does that mean that if I do up my intake of all fresh fish I will be getting all the required amount of omega-3 fatty acids I require?

Not exactly! Omga-3 fatty acids are found basically in oily, fatty fish (salmon, tuna, and mackerel) found in coldwater or the deep sea. Unfortunately almost all fish is contaminated with varying levels of mercury. These varying levels of mercury are easily eliminated by healthy adults but accumulate in the bodies of children and pregnant women. Although its not really substantiated, the accumulated levels of mercury can cause permanent damage to developing children and fetuses.

So how do I make sure that I am getting the required daily amount of Omega-3 everyday?

Supplements of omega-3 are one way you can be sure of getting the required amount of these oils daily. But the American Medical Association recommends only about 1-2 gms of the supplement to be taken daily; as a very high dose can cause bleeding and easy bruising. It can also give the person an unpleasant fishy body odor. Dietary sources are readily available in walnuts, Chinese cabbage, fresh veggies like cantaloupe, kidney beans, broccoli, spinach, grape leaves, and cauliflower all of which are really great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed oil, canola oil, and flaxseeds are one of the very best sources of omega-3 fatty acids for daily use. You can use the oil as a salad dressing or preferably raw as cooking destroys most of the fatty acids in the oil.


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