You’ve probably heard about Fish Oil and Krill Oil as being good for you, that’s because they contain Omega fatty acids. Let me explain why these are so popular.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly omega-3fatty acids, are important for our health and well-being. I spent the best part of 15 years researching the role of these nutrients in eye and brain development, as well as their effect on blood pressure.
What many people don’t realise is that these omega fatty acids are essential and when biochemists refer to something as essential, what they mean is that we aren’t able to make them in our own bodies. We can only get them through dietary means.
When we consume basic omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids in our diets, our bodies naturally metabolise them into longer and more useful molecules.
This process uses a specific set of enzymes and herein lies the catch: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids actually share the same enzymes. This means that the balance of omega-3 and 6s in the diet is crucial. For instance, too much omega-6 fatty acid - found in high levels in animal and vegetable oils and many snack foods, automatically reduces the production of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. That’s not helpful.
The first evidence supporting a role for omega-3 fatty acids in human health were observational studies demonstrating low rates of cardiovascular disease in coastal dwelling Japanese. This group of people naturally have very high rates of fish consumption – and fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon have a lot of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids but it has its problems for those on a vegan diet and if you look into how it's processed, you will be turned off for life.
There’s also the risk of mercury contamination and oxidation and breakdown of the fatty acids in the process of manufacture and shipping.
Omegas and your health
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are found in massive quantities in the grey matter of the brain, the retina of the eye, and many of the cell membranes of the body.
Omega-3 fatty acids are strongly conserved by our bodies, recycled vigorously and even passed from a mother to their baby in the womb as well as being in breastmilk. The body wouldn’t bother doing that for just any nutrient, and dozens of studies have given further weight to the importance of these fatty acids in neural function and development, as well as in regulating inflammation.
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