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Fish or Fish Oil Supplements?
Both fish and fish oil supplements contain important essential Omega 3 fatty acids needed for good health, but as we’ll see, it’s not just any old fish and it’s not just any old fish oil that can get the job done right.
Today’s consumers must be very confused about seemingly contradictory advice about eating fish. The food standards agency says that most people should eat more oily fish such as Salmon, Tuna, Herring and Mackerel because the Omega 3 fatty acids they contain are good for our health. But at the same time, they limit the recommended daily amounts to 2 portions of oily fish per week for women and girls who may want to have a baby one day and for nursing mothers, and 4 portions for everyone else. So first we are told to eat more fish to get the extraordinary health benefits of Omega 3, but then we are told not to eat too much because our fish is contaminated with toxins, especially methylmercury. What should we do with this advice? Maybe we should look at how much Omega 3 we actually need.
Omega 3 – how much is enough?
There is no official recommendation on how much Omega 3 is needed for optimal health, but individually the ideal amount is linked to our intake of Omega 6. The more Omega 6 fatty acids we consume, the more Omega-3 fatty acids we need. to counteract the imbalance. First of all it might help to explain that the body is not able to synthesize Omega 3 or Omega 6 fatty acids for this, so we have to rely entirely on our diets to get them. Now here’s the awesome part.
Most of us today eat diets that are deficient in the anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fatty acids but excessive in the pro-inflammatory Omega 6. Over the past 70 years or so our consumption of fish has decreased dramatically and at the same time we eat. more processed foods, grains and vegetable oils. These foods are not bad in themselves, it’s just that this imbalance in our diets is believed by some to be the root cause of a huge increase in inflammatory conditions, heart disease and depressive disorders, hence the need for more Omega 3’s.
The important Omega 3 fatty acids are Eicosapentaenoic acid and Docosahexaenoic acid or EPA and DHA. In general, 1 g of EPA/DHA per day is considered sufficient for everyone. To give you an idea of what this equates to in real terms, to get this amount of EPA/DHA from the diet, you would have to consume a 3-oz serving of salmon every day, seven days a week.
Given the toxicity issue, one might think it’s safer to get Omega 3 from fish oil supplements, but here’s the “catch”. Fish oil is made from the same fish in the sea, so it stands to reason that fish oils can also be toxic unless of course the fish oil has been purified.
What types of fish oils are there and which is the best?
To put it simply, there are basically 3 types of fish oil available.
o Cod Liver Oil
o Standard fish oil
o High quality concentrated fish oil
Cod liver oil is produced from the liver of fish and although it contains high amounts of Omega 3, the liver is where most of the toxins are stored and so potentially, cod liver oil can contain a high level of pollutants. Cod liver oil also contains high amounts of vitamin A and D and too much can result in Vitamin A toxicity.
Standard fish oils are produced from the flesh of the fish as opposed to the liver of the fish but again, they can contain impurities because whatever was in the fish at the time it was caught is transferred to the oil. The amount of Omega 3 fatty acids they contain can also vary depending on a number of factors including the time of year, environmental conditions, etc.
Advanced concentrated fish oil has an advantage over others in that not only have all the impurities been removed, but the oil can be concentrated to contain much higher levels of Omega 3. For example, concentrations of 70% EPA are possible and therefore less. capsules are needed to produce the same effect. With some of the standard fish oils, 5 or 6 capsules are needed daily. EPA is quickly gaining recognition as the most important fatty acid because the body can produce DHA when enough EPA is present but this does not have the reverse effect.
So far there have been no real studies done on whether there is a significant difference or benefit in getting Omega 3 from fresh fish or from fish oil supplements. However, as it stands today, it appears that the only way to ensure a healthy intake of Omega 3 without the risk of harmful pollutants is to take a high quality fish oil supplement that has gone through processes to filter out the impurities.
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