The Scoop on Fish Oil! Why? What Type? How Much? EPA? DHA?
The following article applies to you if you don’t eat oily fish at least 2-3 times per week (and possibly if you do!).
If you don’t take a fish oil, you should. Unfortunately, the buck doesn’t stop there. Not all fish oil is created equal. If your capsule of fish oil is 1000mg (1 gram), and the Omega-3 content is 50mg EPA, 30mg DHA, and 20mg GLA, what’s happening with the remaining 900mg? Could you be consuming oil with little to no therapeutic value? Maybe. The next question is, where’d the oil come from? Were the fish farm raised? If the answer to that is yes, I’d highly suggest looking for a product that uses wild caught fish. Farm raised fish are fed corn and soy products, the two most commonly genetically modified products in the USA. Not to mention… since when did fish start feeding on corn and soy? Probably since corn and soy started being subsidized, but that’s a whole other can of worms I’ll not open. Back to fish oil…
The question on people’s minds is: “Should I be taking this?” The resounding, unequivocal answer is… YES.
The next question is… “Why?” It can help act as an anti-inflammatory.
Question number three… “So?” Bottom line here… if you eat inorganic food produced in this country, food that’s processed, or consume higher amounts of sugar than you should (IE the typical Standard American Diet AKA SAD Diet) you are probably inflamed. Inflammation is (arguably) the cause of any and all disease/chronic disease processes. Inflammation is also what causes PAIN! The stats report that a healthy omega 3 to omega 6 ratio is 1:1… most people in the USA have an omega 3 to omega 6 ratio of 1:16. Let’s put this fire out!
What does this Omega even mean? All it really means is where along the molecule there is a double bond. Omega 3? Count 3 C’s. Connecting the third to the fourth carbon atom is a double bond. Count 6 C’s. Connecting the sixth to the seventh carbon is a double bond. Omega 6. That’s it for the chemistry.
Eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA, is one type of Omega-3 fatty acids. It helps prevent Arachidonic acid (AA), an Omega-6 fatty acid whose metabolic intermediates (prostaglandins, thromboxanes, leukotrienes, etc) are essentially pro-inflammatory, from even being formed, as well as competing for the catalytic site on cell membranes. It also helps prevent the enzyme Delta-5-Desaturase from producing AA. Bottom line- we want to have less Arachidonic Acid around because it makes pro-inflammatory substances which cause pain and make our cells not talk to each other very well. We can use EPA to accomplish this.
But wait… there’s more… DHA.
Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about docosahexaenoic acid, more commonly called DHA. DHA is crucial for brain health and function. Unlike EPA, which is rapidly oxidized in the brain and doesn’t help fight inflammation that well there, DHA really shines in the central nervous system. Although it does also prevent AA from forming pro-inflammatory mediators, it also helps keep the membranes in the CNS fluid and healthy. It does this and allows the receptors for synaptic vesicles (little transport bubbles full of ions and things that communicate information from cell to cell) to freely rotate, basically allowing the vesicles to get to their target and thus letting the cellular messages get to their destination. Cell to cell communication is improved. DHA also has an effect on cholesterol’s carrier proteins, like LDL, making it larger and more difficult for it to get into the muscle cells that line the arteries, which can in turn have a POSITIVE effect on things like atherosclerosis.
Bottom line here… EPA is really good at combatting inflammation, especially outside of the central nervous system. DHA is great for cell membranes, especially in the central nervous system, and can have a positive effect on arterial health especially with regard to atherosclerosis (whose real underlying cause is tissue damage from inflammation, NOT cholesterol).
Take fish oil. But make sure it’s got good quantities of EPA and DHA. Recommended quantities are at minimum 250mg each daily. For people with cardiovascular disease or other conditions it is higher. Contact your healthcare provider and find out what you need.
I hope this helped clear some things up regarding fish oil, gave you some knowledge you may have wanted, or was just a less-boring introductory chemistry lesson. If you have any questions get in touch.
Until next time!
PS: There are other types of fatty acids, like ALA and GLA, but this is a good start for most, I think.