MILK 'N HONEY HEALTH FOODS

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT FISH OIL

 

        Millions of people regularly take fish oil supplements as a source for the two omega 3 fatty acids called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).  EPA and DHA are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are made in our bodies from the omega 3 fatty acid called alpha linolenic acid (ALA).  ALA and LA (omega 6 linoleic acid) are two important essential fatty acids (EFA’s) found in the oils of a variety of foods such as vegetables, grains, beans, nuts and seeds.  EFA’s are called essential because they must be obtained from the diet as our bodies don’t make them.

       Omega 3 fatty acids have a great deal to do with the production in the body of chemical elements called prostaglandins which control inflammation. Inflammation in the body is recognized as a primary contributor to a variety of health problems including arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  Inflammation results from environmental toxins, poor diet, injury, infection, stress and is a normal and necessary response by the body to any kind of trauma.

       Omega-6 linoleic acid (LA) is used by the body to make other acids which produce pro-inflammatory P2 prostaglandins in response to injury, stress and other issues.  Omega 3 alpha linolenic (ALA) is used by the body to make EPA and DHA which in turn produce anti-inflammatory prostaglandins such as P1 and P3.  These prostaglandins regulate the activity of the pro-inflammatory P-2 prostaglandins.  This is where fish oil comes in.

       Fish oil provides you with the omega 3 EPA and DHA fatty acids your body needs to make the anti- inflammatory prostaglandins without your body having to first make them from the dietary consumption of omega 3 ALA.  Since the American diet is low in omega 3 ALA and high in the omega 6 LA, many Americans have way too much omega 6 LA and not enough omega 3 ALA.

       Typically, Americans have body tissue ratios of from 10:1 to 20:1 omega 6 over omega 3. If you are regularly consuming products containing oils from safflower seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts or corn, you may be getting more than is necessary of omega 6 linoleic acid. These oils are high in omega 6 and are used extensively by the food industry in making processed and refined products.  These oils are also used in cooking.  An additional source of omega 6 is found in the meat we eat from animals raised on grain rather than green vegetation.

       This imbalance of fatty acids results in uncontrolled inflammation which can lead to a variety of health problems.  By getting your omega 3 EPA and DHA direct from fish oil, you insure you are giving your body the necessary fatty acids to produce anti-inflammatory prostaglandins which will reduce overall inflammation resulting in better health.  As stated above, our bodies do make EPA and DHA from dietary ALA but often not enough to combat the excessive amount of omega 6 fatty acids consumed in the diet.  Good dietary sources of ALA are flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, soy beans and dark green leafy vegetables.  As we get older or become diabetic, our bodies do not efficiently convert ALA to EPA and DHA.

       In addition to their role in producing anti-inflammatory prostaglandins in the body, EPA and DHA help to thin saturated fatty acids in the body and thus prevent such fats from aggregating.  They help keep our blood clotting platelets from overly sticking together.  These omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and actually dissolve tumors.  DHA is considered a virtual brain food in that it is essential for neurological function. It is found in high amounts in the retina of our eyes. EFA's along with EPA and DHA are a vital component of cell membranes and play a role in the expression of DNA. 

       Dietary sources of EPA and DHA include cod, salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, black cod, albacore tuna. and various microalgae.  In fact, fish don’t actually make these fatty acids but obtain them from eating phytoplankton, which are single celled algae rich in these fatty acids, or by eating  krill  which  are shrimp-like crustaceans who live on  phytoplankton. 

       EPA and DHA can be obtained by taking fish oil supplements.  The marketplace is currently flooded with such products with there being a wide range of difference in quality. Once oil is removed from the fish it must be quickly processed into its end product to avoid rancidification.  In some cases oil is shipped long distances before it is processed into capsules or bottled.  When this occurs there is a good chance deterioration of the fatty acids and other components of the oil have taken place. 

       There also is the problem of contamination.  Heavy metals, PCB’s and other contaminants may be present in the oil depending on from what waters the fish were obtained.  Molecular distillation is often used to remove contaminants. If the temperature used in such distillation is too high, there can be damage to the molecular structure of the fatty acids.  Some companies tout their product as being “pharmaceutical grade.”  This designation has no particular significance as there are no defined standards for using this term relative to the marketing of fish oil. 

       When purchasing fish oil it is wise to stay away from mass market brands which provide little if any documentation as to how their oils have been processed.  Companies providing high quality fish oils will always provide documentation of where their oil comes from, how it is processed and test results as to contaminants.  At Milk ‘N Honey we carry several brands of high quality fish oils including some with unique processing. 

       A product called Vectomega uses a unique manufacturing process which extracts  phospholipids from salmon that are com­plexed with EPA and DHA through a process called vectorization. Vectorization uses a gentle cold-water and enzyme extraction process which allows the EPA, DHA and phospholipids in the oil to remain in their normal configuration.  The extraction of the oil is carried out in less than an hour in an inert atmosphere at a temperature of less than 60 degrees centigrade. No chemical solvents are used.  This method provides very stable oil that is very well utilized by the body.  Research has shown that ingesting EPA and DHA that is complexed with phospholipids creates up to 50 times more absorbability via cell membranes than EPA/DHA that is not complexed in this manner.

      Another fish oil we carry that has unique processing is Wholemega.  It is obtained from salmon caught in pristine Alaskan waters where testing has shown the fish to be free of contaminants without the need to use molecular distillation.  A low heat process is used to extract the oil allowing the EPA and DHA to remain in their normal molecular configuration and also allowing for the preservation of many other components of the oil such as omega 5, 6 and 7 fatty acids and the antioxidant Astaxanthin. 

       Recently, prescription fish oils have been introduced into the marketplace such as the product Lovaza.  These  products tend to be expensive and provide no nutritional advantage over good quality fish oils obtained at a health food store. The FDA does not allow the manufactures of prescription fish oils to add antioxidants to protect the oil from rancidification. Prescription fish oils are generally prescribed to patients with high triglycerides.  This shows that the medical community recognizes the effectiveness of fish oils lowering these fats in the body.

       There have been thousands of studies done in recent years  that demonstrated the value of adding fish oils to the diet.  Adding a high quality fish oil supplement to your supplement program will insure you are getting these important EPA and DHA fatty acids that play such a vital role in all phases of our health. 

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