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Omega-3's - Oh My!
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Benefits

By: George Best

By now you've probably heard of the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids from things like fish oil. You may be wondering why they are so important,and if you really need to take supplements.

First you have to understand that supplementing with Omega-3 fatty acids does not give you "extra" of these beneficial fats. In fact, most supplementation recommendations probably give most people the minimum they need to balance the other fats in their diets. Studies of different indigenous societies (with low rates of chronic diseases like arthritis and heart disease) typically consume omega-6 and omega-3 fats in about a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio:1 to 2:1. Currently in the United States, that ratio ranges from 20:1 to more than 30:1!

Why the huge difference? First of all, grains and most commercially produced vegetable oils are primarily omega-6 fats and these are staples in the modern American diet. Second, the primary source of omega-3 fats in the American diet used to be from meats, fish, eggs, and poultry. What do I mean used to be? Don't we still eat those foods in relatively large quantities? Yes, but what those foods are being fed has changed.

In the past, meat and poultry products were from animals that ate insects and/or plants that were available naturally in their environment. Insects and plants are high in omega-3 fats, so the animals that eat them are likewise high in omega-3's. Today though, most commercially raised meat, poultry, eggs, and even farm-raised fish, are fed primarily grain - which is high in omega-6 fats, not omega-3's, so the meat, eggs, and fish are also high in omega-6. This combined with our own tendency to eat a lot of grain-based foods has led to a dramatic shift in the ratio of fats in our diets.

This shift in the dietary fat ratio with very little omega-3's being consumed sets us up for a wide variety of health problems. Because omega-3's are essential to a number of biochemical processes, the lack of these important fats has led to a general increase in problems that include depression, inflammatory conditions (such as arthritis and allergies/asthma), and cardiovascular disease. There is even speculation that a lack of omega-3's may be at least partially involved in the development of neurodegenerative disorders and some types of cancer.

With the exception of the unusual person who does not eat a lot of grains and also consumes mostly free-range meats and wild game/fish, I highly recommend supplementing with 1000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids every day. Omega-3 supplements are usually made from fish oil, or may be from krill oil. Either way, as long as you make sure to buy from reputable companies that use independent labs to certify the purity and potency of their supplements, you will be fine.

For strict vegans who do not wish to take fish oil supplements, flax seed oil can be substituted, also in a dosage of 1000 mg per day. Flax oil is not high in omega-3's but the fats in it can be converted to omega-3 in the body in most individuals. There are some people who cannot efficiently make the conversion to the needed omega-3's, and if you are having problems with depression and/or inflammatory conditions despite taking flax oil, you may want to consider fish oil, or you may want to try walnut oil (which is high in omega-3's). Another option is to try evening primrose or borage oil , as these contain fatty acids that don't require as much conversion in the body to produce omega-3 fats.

Dr. George Best is a doctor of chiropractic and holistic healthcare provider in San Antonio, Texas. For additional health-related information on many topics, please visit his blog at http://www.BestHealthAndWellnessInfo.com .

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