"Fishy" Topic – The Omega 3s

The hype on Omega 3 fats has been on the rise as more studies continue to demonstrate their health benefits. So, what are they? Where to find them & how much are we meant to have?

Omega 3 fatty acids are a class of polyunsaturated fats (aka “good fats”) that need to be obtained from the diet. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are the type of omega-3 fatty acids which are believed to be the most valuable forms of omega-3 for our body. Omega 3s are found in both plant and marine foods, but it is the omega-3 fats from marine sources that have the strongest evidence for health benefits. They play a role in:

  • Lowering triglyceride levels (a type of fat in the blood)
  • Lowering high blood pressure
  • Improving symptoms of arthritis
  • Aiding the treatments of mental illness such as depression, bipolar disorders & ADHD However, more research is needed in this area.
  • Helping heart function by improving the elasticity of blood vessels & blood thinning

The best sources of omega 3 fatty acids are oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackarel, sardines & trout. Omega 3s are also found in vegetable oils and seeds. For general health, guidelines recommended a daily amount of omega 3 fatty acids between 400-600mg. Specific guidelines for lowering triglycerides or blood pressure recommend an intake between 2000 – 4000 mg.

The following are estimates of the content of omega 3s per 60g serve of varieties of fish:

  • Salmon (fresh Atlantic) 1,200mg
  • Smoked salmon 1,000mg
  • Canned salmon 500mg
  • Sardines 1,500mg
  • Trout 350mg
  • Scallop or calamari 200mg
  • Sea mullet, abalone 170mg
  • Canned tuna 145mg

For those who do not consume fish:

  • Include oils and margarines high in canola, walnut or soybean oils
  • Have a small handful of walnuts as a snack or add to a salad
  • You can also choose foods fortified with omega-3 fatty acids

Fish Oil Supplements

Now, I always recommend the “au natural” way to obtain your nutrients i.e. best sources are from food. However, for those who do not consume foods rich in omega 3s, including a fish oil supplement to boost their intake is OK. When looking for supplements, choose the ones with the highest EPA and DHA content. Typically, one capsule contains 1000mg of fish oil which will provide 180mg of EPA and 120mg of DHA, giving a total marine omega-3 content of 300mg. So to achieve 500mg every day, you may need to have a supplement of 1 or 2 capsules. As I always say, before commencing supplements – ask for professional advice!

!!Note!! Fish oil is known to have an anti-clotting effect so supplements are not usually advised for those on anticoagulants or blood thinning medication (Warfarin, Heparin) as it prolongs bleeding times, or for those with bleeding disorders. For more information, ask your doctor.

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