F is for fatty acid part 4: DHA, the membrane fat!

H to the izz-O,   D to the HA.  That’s the anthem get’cha damn hands up!

I’d like to introduce you to the super cool and fabulous fatty acid, DHA. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) has an amazingly complex structure and because of this; very significantly alters the physiology of the body.  DHA is the longest and most unsaturated omega-3 fatty acid and has several different applications compared to EPA.

DHA

DHA

DHA has an extremely kinky chain and is the omega-3 with the most double bonds lending to its special role in dynamic, fast-acting cells.

Dynamic quick acting muscles like the flight muscles in hummingbirds have extremely high levels of DHA but not their leg muscles while

Untitled

Pretty flutter wings full of DHA

the muscles found in the rattle of a rattle snake are very high in DHA whereas the stomach muscle has very little.

DHA containing rattle

Rattle containing DHA

Areas of the body with high DHA content

DHA is found in its highest concentrations in the membranes of brain cells, our eyes, sperm, and the heart, making it the fatty acid for neural health, cardiovascular health and issues surrounding fertility and birth

Areas of the body that benefit most from D to the HA

Areas of the body that benefit most from DHA

DHA’s ability to flip-flop between hundreds of different shapes, billions of times per second, enables nerve cells to send their rapid signals, allows the heart to contract and integrate its beat and permits the eye to see and interpret the world around us.

DHA is of most benefit in:

            1. Heart health
            2. Neural health and cognition
            3. Pregnancy and child development

DHA for heart health

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in North America. Several studies support the use of omega-3 fatty acids in heart disease.  The heart health benefits of fish oils are so well supported in the literature that even health canada has approved claims for DHA and EPA in support of heart health.

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodnatur/applications/licen-prod/monograph/mono_fish_oil_huile_poisson-eng.php

DHA + EPA are great for the heart!

DHA + EPA are great for the heart!

DHA is found in large concentrations in the heart (more so then EPA).  Specifically, the kinky and flexible DHA is very involved in proper membrane function in the heart and regulates heart rate by modulating how and when potassium and sodium ions cross the cardiac membrane.  Thousands of studies have been done to assess the heart health benefits of omega-3s and research has revealed that DHA combined with EPA effectively decreases triglycerides, raise good (HDL) cholesterol, lower heart rate, prevent arrhythmias, and decrease blood pressure. All of these effects are extremely beneficial for the heart.  Studies have even shown that omega-3 supplementation with statin administration lowers cholesterol and reduces negative effects better then statins alone!

Most importantly adequate levels of DHA and EPA have been shown to prevent and reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, ischemic event, atherosclerosis and death from a cardiac event.

DHA for cognitive health

The human brain is 90% fat and a good 30-50% of those are omega-3s. In fact, it has been speculated that the development of the large human brain and our evolution as human race depended on early man consuming a rich source of DHA.  The availability of DHA is literally a limiting factor in the evolution of the brain and research suggests that high levels of DHA optimize neural function.  Clinical research has demonstrated that DHA supplementation is effective for preventing cognitive decline in early stage memory decline and supplementation throughout adulthood with a high DHA formula has a positive effect on the prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  Adequate levels of omega-3 reduce risk of dementia by as much as 67%.  DHA also enhances cognition in healthy adults and teens as well.  It has been shown to improve reaction time, concentration, memory and possibly sudoku skillz? (j j/k).

DHA is prevents dementia

DHA is prevents dementia

DHA for pregnancy and fetal health

beldly

DHA supplementation is required during pregnancy

Adequate levels of omega-3 are associated with enhanced fertility.  They reduce the risk of miscarriage and have been shown to increase the likelihood of becoming pregnant.

Once pregnant, omega-3 intake during pregnancy and lactation modulate the growth, development, and health of infants. DHA is found in large concentrations in the brain and eyes of mom and her baby too! WIthout DHA, fetal development is severely compromised.  Adequate maternal intakes of DHA are very important for establishing optimal health of infants.  Birth outcomes such as intelligence, eye hand co-ordination and athleticism are enhanced in mothers with higher DHA status.  Adequate DHA during pregnancy also creates a longer gestation time, reduces the risk of preterm birth and leads to higher birth weight and length which reduces the risk of children that are small for gestational age.

Maintaining levels of DHA and EPA during infancy and breast-feeding is just as crucial.  Higher omega-3 intake throughout lactation leads to more mature and favorable behaviors in infants and children, such as: accelerated attentional functions; improved cognitive function; greater visual acuity; and improved immune responses, among other super kid benefits.

Two of the best ways to get DHA are algae oil and calamari oil.  My favorite is Ascenta’s NutraSea DHA.  I think its one of the world’s most sustainable high DHA omega-3s

Summary:

High DHA omega-3 supplements are best for pregnant and lactating women (or women trying to conceive), seniors, individuals looking to maximize brain health and those who are at increased risk for heart disease.

DHA is the best fatty acid for areas where membrane functioning is crucial like the heart, the eye and the brain.

Finally since calamari (in NutraSea DHA) and algae oil (in NutraVeg) are high in DHA and more sustainable then fish, high DHA fish oil is also a great choice for individuals looking to a choose a more sustainable marine source of omega-3.

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F is for fatty acid part 3! EPA for the win!

Fresh off the super fun talk I gave this past Thursday to the lovely BC employees of wholefoods, on omega-3s; I shall as promised, finally deliver the 3rd part of our discussion about all things fatty acid.

get it in ya!

get it in ya!

One of the points I really wanted to emphasize with the whole foods crew is that there are specific instances when we want more EPA and those during which we need more DHA instead.  Just like we talked about omega-6s and omega-3s competing for cellular absorption in part 2 of F is for fatty acid, so too do EPA and DHA compete with each other for incorporation, metabolism and use through-out the body.

cellular_health

The clinical benefits of daily fish oil

Omega-3s are one of THE most researched topics in medicine.  Close to 2000 papers are published per year and currently there are about 20,000 research articles on the health benefits of omega-3s.

Picture1

Geeks love omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids biggest claim to fame is heart health and prevention of cardiovascular disease. It all started in Greenland, where eskimos paradoxically were living longer and had lower risks of heart disease despite consuming diets that were ridiculously high in fat.  Dr Dyerberg (considered by many to be the father of omega-3s) traveled to Greenland and discovered that their high fat diets weren’t made up of the usual fats, but were very high in omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, and so the era of studying the health effects of omega-3s began.

Picture2

The health effects of omega-3s:

Fish oil modifies a number of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including blood pressure, blood clotting, triglyceride (blood fat) concentrations, irregular heart beats, heart rate and blood vessel health. Because of this,  increased intake of omega-3s is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality and supplementation in at-risk patients also reduces mortality.

As mentioned in fatty acids part 2, omega-3s are awesomely anti-inflammatory. They are beneficial in any disease with an inflammatory component, such as pain, arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases, psoriasis, eczema, lupus, asthma, and basically any condition that ends in “itis”, as that means inflammation. In fact I challenge you to google any condition, especially an inflammatory one + omega-3 or fish oil and I guarantee you’ll get multiple hits.

photo

Research also suggests that omega-3 fatty acids improve immune function,  boost metabolism and improve body composition, which can help overweight or obese people achieve weight loss.

Picture7

Omega-3s have been shown to help maintain bone mass and therefore help in the prevention of osteoporosis or loss of bone density and are very involved in visual development so they can help to improve eye health.

Because omega-3 fatty acids comprise a large part of the fats in the brain, they help to improve brain health and learning processes, which therefore make them valuable in infant and childhood learning, as well as behavioral or attention issues.  They also decrease the inflammation associated with an aging brain making them great for prevention of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and memory decline.

Finally, research suggests that omega-3s can help to stabilize mood imbalances, which is helpful in depression, anxiety, and hostility/aggression.

Picture8

Lets talk about each of these effects in more detail and specifically address which conditions EPA is of benefit, and which ones require DHA.

EPA

EPA is the best choice for any condition modulated by, or due to inflammation.  The anti-inflammatory actions of omega-3 fatty acids are mainly attributed to EPA.

When inflammation becomes chronic is destroys healthy cells and tissues in our bodies contributing to a great deal of diseases such as:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • cancer
  • allergies
  • asthma
  • eczema
  • depression
  • bipolar disorder
  • obesity 
  • arthritis and joint pain
  • ulcerative colitis
  • crohns disease and others

One of the conditions newly thought to be due to inflammation is depression.

  • In the past the etiology of depression was widely assumed to be due to serotonergic dysfunctions.  However, the current theories that rely solely on serotonin function and cortisol hypersecretion are insufficient. 
  • More then half of depressed individuals with depression relapse despite conventional management with anti-depressants. 

One of the new hypotheses for depression etiology is inflammation and several studies have been done to assess the inflammatory hypothesis of depression. 

  • Depressed patients have higher levels of inflammatory cytokines and when exogenous inflammatory molecules are administered they induce a depressed state. 
  • Chronic inflammation generates what is known as sickness behavior and signs and symptoms match those of depression almost completely.
  • Depression has been described as the “brain on fire”
  • Research reveals that EPA is actually the main effective component in omega-3 treatment of depression
  • Several meta-analysis have discovered that a ratio of at least 3:1 of EPA to DHA is required for anti-depressant effectiveness.

Inflammation is also a common factor in brain disorders, including attention deficit disorder.

You can’t feel brain inflammation the way you can feel an inflamed finger from a splinter or an arthritic joint, however, brain inflammation when present can generate a foggymind, difficulty concentrating, and an inability to focus.

An excellent way to control inflammation in the brain is to maintain high levels of EPA in the blood through the consumption of a high EPA omega-3 product

Finally,

EPA is of GREAT benefit to athletes and those looking to loose weight. EPA improves body composition by accelerating fat loss and increasing muscle growth and strength; this can have important implications for athletic performance. When EPA is consumed it promotes recovery from exercise by reducing exercise-induced inflammation and soreness while also improving heart efficiency and lung function.

Picture6

Next week we’ll tackle the clinical indications of DHA and GLA 🙂

If you’d like to know specifically how omega-3s modulate joint pain and arthritis, how they can generate weight loss or how they reduce and improve symptoms of colitis, IBS or poor memory, comment on the post and I’ll reply!

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

F is for fatty acid- part 2

How the heck do fish oils work & what do EFAs do?!?

Once fish oil is consumed and enters the blood it becomes incorporated into every type of cell all over our bodies. Each of these cells have an outer membrane and this outer membrane contains phospholipid fat. Each of these phospholipid molecules contain two fatty acids. Many of these fatty acids are the lovely essential fatty acids we discussed last week. Mainly:  AA, EPA or DGLA.

The cell and its phospholipid plasma membrane

F is for fatty acid….part deux

How do Essential fatty acids work?

There are 4 key concepts which have helped these mean green health helping machines develop their cure all reputation:

1) EFAs are an important part of all cell membranes: Blood cells, immune cells, neurons and neural cells, heart cells etc etc tec. 2) EFAs provide the correct environment for : Membrane fluidity, enzymatic functioning, proteins structure and membrane receptors. 3) EFAs regulate cell signaling, gene expression, cellular function, the immune system and EVERY SINGLE REACTION IN THE BODY! 4) EFAs reduce and resolve inflammation

One of the primary roles EFAs play in the body is immune system regulation and inflammation

1) Important cell membrane component EFAs are critical components in the cellular membranes of many organs. Some of those most affected by EFA imbalance are the brain, the heart, the digestive system and the skin. Once the fatty acids from fish oil make into the tiny membranes found all over our body, they are cleaved/cut out of their membranes so that they can be modified, metabolized and utilized for chemical reactions. After they are cleaved out of the phospholipid membrane and released as free fatty acids,  EFAs are enzymatically metabolized and oxygenated and then further modified to yield hormone like molecules called eicosanoids. The first of these enzymes, Cyclooxygenase (COX) oxidizes and removes two C=C double bonds leading to the thomboxanes, prostaglandins and prostacyclins (TX, PG and PGI). These hormonal signalling molecules then modulate circulation, the thickness of your blood and the release of white blood cells and inflammatory mediators.   The second enzyme: Lipoxygenase (LOX) generates leukotrienes whose main action is to narrow your blood vessles causing vasocontriction.

Arachidonic acid being cut out of a membrane and metabolized

2) Every reaction in all the cells of your body is very dependent on the structure of its outer membrane. How flexible or “fluid” it is, what molecules are sticking out (receptors) and the tags other cells floating around can recognize (like glycation, sulphonation at the like) are what determine the activity of every cell. When a molecule floats by on the outside of a cell it must bind to the outer membrane of the cell in order to initiate changes on the inside of said cell. The proteins the molecule binds to is known as a membrane receptor, and is dependent on a lock and key model. Only a very specific size and shaped molecule (key) which fits perfectly into the receptor protein (lock) can initiate the snow-ball effects inside the cell where changes occur that initiates genetic, messenging and metabolic alterations.  EFAs very profoundly modulate the way the outside of our cellular membranes look. By doing this, EFAs significantly modify the shape of the lock and therefore what type of key will fit in and initiate cellular changes. EFAs modulate:

  1. The fluidity, flexibility and moldability of our cells
  2. The enzymatic reactions that occur inside and outside of our cells
  3. Protein structures and membrane receptors.

3) Genetic alterations Once they alter the structure and functioning of the cellular membrane omega-3s are able to alter intracellular signalling. They modify the genes involved in fat burning, glucose control, neural synpase formation, neurotransmitter release, hormone secretion and modify virtually every reaction in your body from the signal required to initiate a new muscle fiber growth to being able to remember the buy eggs at the grocery store.

Fish oil’s claim to fame! Decreased inflammation

The main benefit of fish oil is a reduction in chronic inflammation giving our cells a break from the overwhelming destructive inflammatory fire that’s been burning on and on due to toxicity, processed diets, environmental exposure and the chemical reactions required to run our beautiful magnificent human bodies.

Remember when I told you that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is about 30:1 in our society, well that inappropriate level of omega-6 fats relative to omega-3s generates what is known as chronic inflammation.  The eicosanoids/hormones produced from fish oil are anti-inflammatory, those from omega-6s are inflammatory. Unless our diet is balanced and equal in both fatty acids; inflammation will prevail and become chronic.
Chronic inflammation

When inflammation becomes chronic and is allowed to smolder un-opposed, the immune systems ceases to only fight and attack pathogens and invaders and begins to cause damage and break down to normal tissue. This chronic inflammation inappropriately activates the immune system against self cells and is at the foundation of auto-immune diseases like Rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis, and Psoriasis

Omega-3 are able to prevent and resolve inflammation in 3 ways:

  1. They compete with AA for membrane incorporation
  2. They modify the genes that initiate inflammation
  3. They actively resolve inflammation that’s already occuring

1. One of the principle ways omega-3s reduce inflammation is by directly competing with the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid for membrane incorporation.  EPA then competes for enzymatic activation by several ezymes, namely: COX and LOX enzymes which convert EFAs into prostaglandins (PG2/PG3), thromboxanes (TXA2/TXA3) and leukotrienes (LTK4/5)  EPA then competes for enzymatic activation by COX & LOX enzymes. When eicosapentaenoic acid is metabolized by COX/LOX instead of AA, it produces a very different and much less inflammatory set of molecules then does AA.

  • AA produces the proinflammatory hormone like molecules:  Prostaglandin E(2) and leukotrieneB4–>These are potent molecules that recruit inflammatory cells and contributes greatly to tissue breakdown and the heat of inflammation
  • EPA produces eicosanoids, with a different structure which are less potent and much less inflammatory Prostaglandin E3 and leukotriene B5
2. Omega-3s directly modify the genes associated with inflammation.  Omega-3s turn inflammation off, preventing destruction of your body and allowing it to heal. They reduce a messenger called nuclear factor-κB. This bad boy is activation which decreases the formation of  pro-inflammatory cytokines like IL-1, 6, 8 and TNF alpha from monocytes and macrophages.

3. Finally, Resolution of inflammation has historically been viewed as a passive process, occurring as a result of the withdrawal of pro-inflammatory signals like leukotrienes and prostaglandins.  Research over the last few years has determined that inflammation resolution is an active process. basically meaning the taking your omega-3s inhibits inflammation from starting in the first place and thennnnnnn helps turn off the inflammatory switch if its already been on & burning everything up. Stay tuned next week for part 3 of 3 which deals with which clinical diseases are prevented and treated by the anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids EPA, DHA and DGLA.

F is for fatty acid!

My nick name at school, and pretty much in life, is miss fatty acid.

being an expert on oils extracted from fish and marine life isn’t really that glamorous……. but til death do us part; I live, eat, breathe and chug fish oil.

I owe a lot to Ascenta Health and their lovely essential fatty acids. It’s my employer, where many of my good friends work, my research for them inspired my career choice, and I get to help people every time I recommend an omega-3, or provide the research indicated for a specific medical or health concern.

F is for fatty acid

The letter F is gonna be a three parter. What can I say I’m obsessed with essential fats. We’ll get to G eventually and it’ll be Gggggreat

  1. In this first post I’ll describe what an essential fat is
    • who and what are the omega-3s and the omega-6s
  2. The second post will describe what omega-3s do in our body, how they modulate human physiology.
    • What is chronic inflammation? How do EFAs modulate the immune system
  3. The last and third post will describe the clinical indications for omega-3s!
    • What to take, how much and which product to choose for the most common diseases and conditions.

What are essential fatty acids (EFAs)

Essential fats are just that: Essential.  Humans don’t have the genes required to produce the enzymes required to make omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from other fatty precursors, making it “essential” that they be consumed in our diet. Every single omega- or omega-6 fat in our body was consumed from our diet.  Throughout the course of history, both omega-3 and omega-6 were consumed in relatively similar quantities.

Historically we ate:                                                         Today we eat:

  • Berries, nuts, seeds, fish, whole foods                       Processed foods, grains, vegetable oils, grain fed meat
  • Ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 WAS 1:1 or 1:2         Ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is NOW 1: 25 or 1:40

You really are what you eat. If you eat a lot of omega-6 fatty acids and few omega-3s from fish;  then every cell in your body will have more omega-6s then omega-3s as well.

 Why supplement?

Based on a Harvard Medical study a deficiency of omega-3 was the 6th largest cause of preventable death in the US.

  1. Tobacco smoking       467,000                   5. High dietary salt                               102,000
  2. High blood pressure   395,000                   6. Low dietary omega-3 fatty acids     84,000
  3. Overweight-obesity     216,000                   7. High dietary trans fatty acids           82,000
  4. Physical inactivity        191,000

Over the past few decades  its become clear that omega-3s are literally a cure ALL!!

Here’s a challenge: Google any medical condition or issue you can think of + omega-3, and I guarantee you’ll get a hit and that omega-3s are beneficial. One of the reasons I love omegas such much is that they are super naturopathic, because they don’t actually “treat” disease; instead they modify the body’s internal biochemistry allowing for a healthier response to mitigate or prevent disease.

Whats cool is that very few pharmaceutical drugs achieve the same level of efficiency and none provide the range of benefits and safety

Sources of short and long chain essential fatty acids

Short chain:

OMEGA-3

  • Short chain omega-3 fatty acids (with less carbons) include alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and stearidonic acid (SDA)
  • ALA is most commonly known to occur in flax, but is also found in hemp, chia, canola, rapeseed & soy.
  • SDA is found in echium, black currant and hemp
  • Pretty much all of the clinical research has been done with the long chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.

Short and long chain EFAs

Conversion to EPA and DHA from ALA is very inefficient in humans. Studies show on average that 3.5% of ALA converts to EPA and less then 1% of ALA converts to DHA
Delta 6 desaturase is the limiting enzyme in conversion from ALA to EPA and is inhibited by aging, alcohol, xenoestrogens, cholesterol, saturated fat, sugar, low levels of Mg, Zn, B6 & C among many other things including high levels of dietary LA, since it too requires delta 6 for conversion.
see the following article I wrote a few years back if you’re interested in learning more:
Thankfully, SDA found in echium converts much more effectively to EPA–> studies in humans show it converts about 35% to EPA. Conversion to EPA bypasses the rate limiting delta 6 desaturase making SDA much more bioavailable
OMEGA-6
  • The short chain omega-6 linoleic acid is found in great abundance in our diet and occurs in safflower, evening primrose, grape seed, sunflower, corn, hemp, wheat germ, cottonseed, soybean, walnut, sesame, argan, peanut, canola, olive & coconut oil.  It is also found in almonds, peanuts, pistachios, egg yolks, chicken fat etc.

Long chain fatty acids

OMEGA-3

  • Long chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are found in marine life.  Commonly fish, squid, krill, seals etc
  • It is important to select a marine oil that is ethically sourced, strictly controlled by the environment and the smaller the animal the better since big fish eat little fish and via bio-accumulation, larger species will have higher levels of mercury, lead, pesticides and other chemicals.

OMEGA-6

  • Arachidonic acid is the BAD guy. He’s the one wreaking havoc on your health, causing imbalance and smoldering inflammation. It’s found in many parts of our diet including peanuts and grain fed meat and readily converts from LA its short chain precursor.
  • Gamma linoleic acid another long chain omega-6 fatty acid is gaining a lot of popularity as a useful essential fat to supplement along with fish oil. Ironically research has been around for decades on its usefulness in hormones, menopause, skin and joint health.
  • Gamma linoleic acid can be found most commonly in borage oil and evening primrose oil but it also occurs in hemp, chia, black currant and echium as well.
  • One concern with supplementing GLA is that it can convert to the inflammatory arachidonic acid. In clinical and in vitro research conversion to AA is inhibited by EPA.

GLA conversion

Bioavailibility of long chain omega-3 fatty acids

  • Another important consideration is bioavailibility

fish oil synthesis

There are two types of fish oils most readily available: Natural triglycerides and synthetic ethyl ester

  • When our bodies digest fats: they are emulsified by bile and then hydrolyzed with pancreatic lipse from the pancreas
      • The ethyl ester bond is 50x more resistant to lipase breakdown, meaning less fish oil is digested.
  • Free fatty acids are then produced and the fats are absorbed through the endothelial cells of the small intestine.
  • Once in the intestinal cells, in order to be absorbed into the blood and circulation, chylomicrons must be formed and the free fatty acids need to be re-synthesized into triglycerides which means that a glycerol backbone is required.
      • This glycerol backbone back is not present in ethyl ester fish oils making their absorption significantly lower then their natural TG competitors..

fat breakdown

for more info check out another article I wrote:

http://www.ascentahealth.com/health-science/science-articles/fish-oil-triglycerides-vs-ethyl-esters-as-nature-intended

Stay tuned next week for how omega-3s work and their anti-inflammatory action.

F is for fatty acid!

My nick name at school, and pretty much in life, is miss fatty acid.

being an expert on oils extracted from fish and marine life isn’t really that glamorous……. but til death do us part; I live, eat, breathe and chug fish oil.

I owe a lot to Ascenta Health and their lovely essential fatty acids. It’s my employer, where many of my good friends work, my research for them inspired my career choice, and I get to help people every time I recommend an omega-3, or provide the research indicated for a specific medical or health concern.

F is for fatty acid

The letter F is gonna be a three parter. What can I say I’m obsessed with essential fats. We’ll get to G eventually and it’ll be Gggggreat

  1. In this first post I’ll describe what an essential fat is
    • who and what are the omega-3s and the omega-6s
  2. The second post will describe what omega-3s do in our body, how they modulate human physiology.
    • What is chronic inflammation? How do EFAs modulate the immune system
  3. The last and third post will describe the clinical indications for omega-3s!
    • What to take, how much and which product to choose for the most common diseases and conditions.

What are essential fatty acids (EFAs)

Essential fats are just that: Essential.  Humans don’t have the genes required to produce the enzymes required to make omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from other fatty precursors, making it “essential” that they be consumed in our diet. Every single omega- or omega-6 fat in our body was consumed from our diet.  Throughout the course of history, both omega-3 and omega-6 were consumed in relatively similar quantities.

Historically we ate:                                                         Today we eat:

  • Berries, nuts, seeds, fish, whole foods                       Processed foods, grains, vegetable oils, grain fed meat
  • Ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 WAS 1:1 or 1:2         Ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is NOW 1: 25 or 1:40

Our food builds our cells

You really are what you eat. If you eat a lot of omega-6 fatty acids and few omega-3s from fish;  then every cell in your body will have more omega-6s then omega-3s as well.

 Why supplement?

Based on a Harvard Medical study a deficiency of omega-3 was the 6th largest cause of preventable death in the US.

  1. Tobacco smoking       467,000                   5. High dietary salt                               102,000
  2. High blood pressure   395,000                   6. Low dietary omega-3 fatty acids     84,000
  3. Overweight-obesity     216,000                   7. High dietary trans fatty acids           82,000
  4. Physical inactivity        191,000

Over the past few decades  its become clear that omega-3s are literally a cure ALL!!

Here’s a challenge: Google any medical condition or issue you can think of + omega-3, and I guarantee you’ll get a hit and that omega-3s are beneficial. One of the reasons I love omegas such much is that they are super naturopathic, because they don’t actually “treat” disease; instead they modify the body’s internal biochemistry allowing for a healthier response to mitigate or prevent disease.

Whats cool is that very few pharmaceutical drugs achieve the same level of efficiency and none provide the range of benefits and safety

Sources of short and long chain essential fatty acids

Short chain:

OMEGA-3

  • Short chain omega-3 fatty acids (with less carbons) include alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and stearidonic acid (SDA)
  • ALA is most commonly known to occur in flax, but is also found in hemp, chia, rapeseed & soy.
  • SDA is found in echium, black currant and hemp
  • Pretty much all clinical research has been done with the long chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.

Short and long chain EFAs

Conversion to EPA and DHA from ALA is very inefficient in humans. Studies show on average that 3.5% of ALA converts to EPA and less then 1% of ALA converts to DHA

Short chain conversion to long chain fatty acid

Delta 6 desaturase is the limiting enzyme in conversion from ALA to EPA and is inhibited by aging, alcohol, xenoestrogens, cholesterol, saturated fat, sugar, low levels of Mg, Zn, B6 & C among many other things including high levels of dietary LA, since it too requires delta 6 for conversion.
see the following article I wrote a few years back if you’re interested in learning more:
Thankfully, SDA found in echium converts much more effectively to EPA–> studies in humans show it converts about 35% to EPA. Conversion to EPA bypasses the rate limiting delta 6 desaturase making SDA much more bioavailable
OMEGA-6
  • The short chain omega-6 linoleic acid is found in great abundance in our diet and occurs in safflower, evening primrose, grape seed, sunflower, corn, hemp, wheat germ, cottonseed, soybean, walnut, sesame, argan, peanut, canola, oilve & cocunut oil.  It is also found in almonds, peanuts, pistachios, egg yolks, chicken fat etc.

Long chain fatty acids

OMEGA-3

  • Long chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are found in marine life.  Commonly fish, squid, krill, seals etc
  • It is important to select a marine oil that is ethically sourced, strictly controlled by the environment and the smaller the animal the better since big fish eat little fish and via bio-accumulation, larger species will have higher levels of mercury, lead, pesticides and other chemicals.

OMEGA-6

  • Arachidonic acid is the BAD guy. He’s the one wreaking havoc on your health, causing imbalance and smoldering inflammation. It’s found in many parts of our diet including peanuts and grain fed meat and readily converts from LA its short chain precursor.
  • Gamma linoleic acid another long chain omega-6 fatty acid is gaining a lot of popularity as a useful essential fat to supplement along with fish oil. Ironically research has been around for decades on its usefulness in hormones, menopause, skin and joint health.
  • Gamma linoleic acid can be found most commonly in borage oil and evening primrose oil but it also occurs in hemp, chia, black currant and echium as well.
  • One concern with supplementing GLA is that it can convert to the inflammatory arachidonic acid. In clinical and in vitro research conversion to AA is inhibited by EPA.

Bioavailibility of long chain omega-3 fatty acids

  • Another important consideration is bioavailibility