Omega-3 Fatty Acids - docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

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Another excuse to eat sushi (salmon and tuna are great for omega 3 fatty acids)

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Fish Oil versus Flax Seed Oil—Which Is Better?

(Excerpt from the article by Wyn Snow)
In one respect, fish oil is definitely “better” than flax seed oil. Fish oil contains two omega-3s that are especially important: EPA and DHA. The body uses EPA to create many hormone-like substances that reduce inflammation and other “excited” states in the body, such as raised blood pressure. Also, eight percent of the brain is composed of EPA and DHA, and one wants to be sure this 8% stays healthy!

Taking fish oil can guarantee that the body gets enough of these two vital omega-3s.

However, Dr. Udo Erasmus, author of Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, claims that the process manufacturers use to produce most vegetable cooking oils—a process often used to remove contaminants from fish oils as well—is itself destructive to the quality of the oil. According to Erasmus, oils that have undergone this refining, bleaching and deodorizing process “contain 0.5 to 1.0% damaged, highly toxic molecules.” On the other hand, Erasmus manufactures and sells a competing product, so such statements may be convenient marketing claims rather than independently verified scientific fact.

If you want to avoid oils that have been exposed to this refining, bleaching, and deodorizing process, look for either cold-pressed or unrefined on a product’s label. Both terms mean that a mechanical process was used to extract the oil rather than chemicals.

Benefits of flax oil
Flax seed oil contains an omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is one of two fatty acids that the body needs and cannot make for itself. Several other sources of ALA do exist, most notably walnuts and hemp seed. Omega-3s are needed by every cell in the body. Among other things, an ample supply helps ensure that cell membranes stay flexible so that cells can get nutrients easily.

The body can use ALA to make all the other omega-3 fatty acids that it needs, including both EPA and DHA. Thus, if you get enough ALA, you don’t need to eat any other sources of omega-3s.

Another advantage of getting one’s omega-3s from the ALA in flax oil is that the body does not create more EPA and DHA than it needs. Therefore, ingesting too much EPA/DHA is not an issue.

The human body uses a variety of omega-3s, not just EPA and DHA. To make the full range of these omega-3s, the body needs ALA from flax oil (or walnuts or other sources) in addition to EPA and DHA. Thus, one needs to consume some ALA even if fish and/or fish oil are plentiful in one’s diet.

Fish oil safety
Many omega-3 fish oil supplements do not contain these troublesome contaminants—as evidenced by ConsumerLab.com, Consumer Reports, and other independent testing organizations. However, some products have been found to be contaminated, especially from countries whose production standards are not rigorous.

If you are concerned about the quality of your favorite brand of fish oil, Dr. Barry Sears recently described a simple “toothpick poke test” that may reassure you. Puncture several capsules with a needle or pin, and squeeze the contents into a small cup-shaped container, such as a thimble. Set the thimble (or other container) in the freezer for 5 hours. If you can easily push the toothpick into the oil, Sears says that means it does not contain serious levels of contamination.

Another strategy is to look for quality seals on the label. Both the NSF and NNFA quality seals mean that the product does not contain heavy metals. Specifically, any lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and/or chromium that might be present must be at levels below the standards set by the World Health Organization. In order to quality for the NSF and NNFA quality seals, any claims on the label that the product does not contain other contaminants must be supported by independent laboratory tests. Also, supplement products consisting of 2% oil or more must pass two tests for the presence of oxidation and rancidity.

Is flax oil “better” than fish oil?
Since one needs ALA anyway, and the body can make all the other omega-3s it needs from ALA, does that mean flax seed oil is a better source than fish oil for one’s omega-3s? Not necessarily.

The body uses various enzymes to convert ALA to other omega-3s, and the process is not very efficient, especially as one gets older. Estimates of the rate of conversion range from 5% to 25%. In order to make sufficient amounts of EPA and DHA, one needs to consume 5 or 6 times more ALA than if one relies on fish oil alone. Also, women convert ALA to the other omega-3s more efficiently than men, largely so they can meet the nutritional demands of their infants during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Another consideration is that ALA competes metabolically with the other essential fatty acid that the body cannot make for itself. Linoleic acid (LA) plays the same role for omega-6 fatty acids that ALA does for omega-3s: The body uses LA to make all the other omega-6s that it needs.

By competes, we mean that when LA is oversupplied in the diet, the body makes more of the LA-derived fatty acids than it needs, and not enough of the ALA-derived ones. The “LA side” of these substances help us react to dangers and stress and are therefore crucial to our health and survival, but when they are oversupplied, the result is chronic high blood pressure, cellular inflammation, and other conditions leading to today’s panoply of degenerative diseases.

Unfortunately, the recent emphasis on vegetable oils has led to a 10:1 ratio between LA and ALA in the American diet. While there is no consensus yet on what an optimal ratio would be, estimates range from 4:1 to 2:1. Consuming smaller amounts of the omega-6 LA helps the body maintain a healthy balance between the “stimulating” LA substances and the “calming” ALA substances. One excellent method of improving this ratio is switching to monounsaturated oils like olive oil. While canola oil does contain some ALA, it also contains a higher level of LA, so is not a recommended method of improving one’s LA-to-ALA ratio.

How much do we need?
For healthy adults, the recommendation is 300-500 mg per day of EPA and DHA combined, plus an additional 800 to 1100 mg of ALA.

The EPA/DHA recommendation can usually be met with one softgel capsule of fish oil (with 1 gram or 1000 mg of fish oil) which usually contains 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg of DHA, totalling 300 mg of the two omega-3s. However, amounts do vary (some products are stronger, some weaker), so look at the amounts of EPA and DHA provided, and add them together to see if the product supplies 300 mg in one serving.

Dr. Barry Sears further recommends that people with diabetes, osteoarthritis, and heart disease take twice that amount of fish oil. He also recommends that people with cancer take four times that amount. However, people with congestive heart failure should not be taking large quantities of fish oil, (see toxicity discussion in the article).

In conclusion
Both fish oil and flax seed oil have benefits and potential drawbacks. Fish oil is an excellent and usually uncontaminated source of EPA and DHA, which the body uses to make the “calming” omega-3 fatty acids and keep the brain healthy. Consuming them directly can ensure that one gets enough. Flax seed oil contains ALA, which the body can use to make all the omega-3s that it needs. The body needs ALA to make other omega-3s, even when it gets enough EPA and DHA from fish or fish oils.

As for drawbacks, some fish oil products are contaminated, and even those that are not may have undergone a cleaning process that creates a small percentage of toxic molecules. On the other hand, getting all one’s omega-3s from flax oil means that one needs to consume significantly more. Also, it is possible to ingest too much omega-3s, even though the greater health risk is of consuming too much omega-6 LA. Also, people with congestive heart failure should take omega-3s only with the full knowledge and active supervision of their physician.

In conclusion, why limit oneself to either/or when it’s better to have both/and? Eating a modest amount of fish or fish oil (or algae-based DHA supplements) ensures a direct supply of EPA and DHA, while adding flax seed oil to one’s diet ensures a healthy intake level of ALA. Every cell in your body will thank you for it.

===
You should read this entire article. I have only taken out specific parts of it to summarize the information. It is found at this link. http://www.supplementquality.com/efficacy/fishoil_flaxoil.html
===
I take 2 pharmaceutical grade Omega 3 (fish oil) capsules each day PLUS freshly ground flax seed. The Omega 3 I use contains 2000 mg of fish oil with 580 mg of EPA & 470 mg of DHA in one serving of 2 capsules. This amount is recommended by the scientists from the company I get the product from. BTW this product is priced quite well. (A month's supply runs me $20. I've researched this to find lessor products could cost 2-3X this for the same quality.)

I buy #2 grade flax seed from IA. This is the best you can purchase. Plain flax seed can be stored indefinitely but ground seeds or oil will not keep long. It starts to break down immediately and must be stored in the refrigerator. And even at that you shouldn't store in much longer than an week. What good is to use a product that has lost what you are taking it for in the first place? BTW you can not digest unground flax seed. It must be ground. I use a coffee grinder. (Makes for some interesting coffee if you don't get it all out.)
 

RobinN

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The ratio of EPA to DHA really depends on what you are using the omega 3 for.
If you are after an omega 3 supplement just to complement your diet
(ie you dont eat 2 serves of fish per week) then you are looking at
1.5 EPA to every DHA.
If you are using omega 3 to improve joint health (ie arthritis) then
the ratio is 4.5EPA:1DHA.
Omega three to improve heart health then the ratio is 2EPA:1DHA
Omega three to assist brain performance then the ratio is 1EPA:5DHA
hope this helps?
I just found this on Google Questions... please understand that I do not know the qualifications of the person who answered the question. I appreciated the insight however.
 

Cinnabar

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One of my favorite health subjects to tout...

I've been using Flax Seed Oil for years and recommend it to all my friends and those who are health conscious. Now, this might sound like a promotion but I use Barlean's Flax Seed Oil. It has the highest ligan content and if you keep a 32 FL.OZ in the freezer it should keep one year past it's expiration date. Just FYI.

I know Omega 3 is beneficial for those with Bi-Polar Disorder, (have that one, too), depression and probably other numerous conditions. I've been uniformed about its postive effects relating to Epilepsy and am really glad to hear it can benefit the epileptic condition.

An aside...since I've been using the oil I've noticed that my nails grow like crazy and are super sturdy. If I kept them very long I could probably pick up small objects with them! Just a small expample of how healthy it is for you in general.

I used to purchase the Flax Seed Oil/Borage Oil combination but read that the Omega 6 in Borage Oil is'nt all that efficacious for body/mind function and that, in fact, over use is not a good thing to ingest.

Well, so much for my didatic jargon! If anyone can elaborate on Borage Oil's Omega 6 in relation to what I sparsely described above, I'm all ears.

Always Cinnabar
 
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Cinnabar

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Thanks Bernard - I'll look into Primrose and Alternative Treatments.
Per, my recent post about my e-mail situation I hope this gets to you. Cinnabar
 
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RobinN

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Chia would fall into the plant based Omega 3's.

In the plant-based omega-3's, there is a lower level, 18-carbon fatty acid called ALA, alpha linolenic acid, that provides the source of omega-3 fats. But in the animal-based type, you have higher levels, which is the 20-carbon chain, EPA, and the 22-carbon chain, DHA. The DHA is the one that's primarily in our brains, and you really need quite a bit of it.

You'll run into problems if you supplement exclusively with DHA or EPA. You really need the whole spectrum of fatty acids because each are important. Your body requires all of them.

Let's cover some of the basics. If you use only plant-based, 18-carbon fatty acid, then your body has to upregulate, or convert, those into EPA. If you happen to have conditions associated with high insulin levels, the enzyme needed for this conversion is impaired, thereby inhibiting optimal conversion of fatty acids; probably less than 1-2% will be converted to the higher order fats like EPA and DHA. So, be careful about this.

How do you know if you have high insulin levels? Well, there are conditions that are typically associated with elevated insulin, such as overweight, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure or diabetes, and about 85% of our population have these. So, make sure that you get animal-based omega-3 fats.
http://v.mercola.com/QA/Are-You-Taking-the-Right-Type-of-Omega-3-Fats--3487.aspx
 

Bernard

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How do you know if you have high insulin levels? Well, there are conditions that are typically associated with elevated insulin, such as overweight, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure or diabetes, and about 85% of our population have these. So, make sure that you get animal-based omega-3 fats.
lol... I just re-read that. The great majority of the 85% that match those factors *are* the animal eaters...
 

RobinN

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Not sure I would limit it to just that... I would say that the 85% with these problems are eating the SAD diet. (Standard American Diet).
 

Bernard

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Cinnabar, try reading the first post in this thread... :paperbag:
 
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Cinnabar

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Two Very Different Questions re: Omega-3

Homeopathic Practitioners and Prescibing Doctors lock horns about coupling Homeopathic Treatments with pharmacutical prescriptions. Omega 3 is sometimes used in Homeopathic Treatment and I've believe caution is advised when it is used, coupled, with certain medications. I'm lacking sophisticated jargon so this is a question simply put. For all the talk about benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids as it relates to Epilepsy, should it be further explored, here, regarding its relationship to prescribed medications? I take my Flaxseed Oil every morning. Two years now, and am not in panic. Just curious.

On the other side of the coin...One or some of my medications is/are loosing efficacy. I wonder if using Flax Seed Oil could extend the life span of medications. That was way, way on the other side of the coin! But this just came to mind. :ponder:

Cinnabar
 
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RobinN

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The news in favor of fish oil supplements is out: polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, found in abundance in fish oil, can be beneficial in the treatment of nearly every illness, especially neurological, cognitive, and psychological disorders. These essential fatty acids are some of the most important building-blocks for our brains, and neurons are much more likely to misfire in the event of omega-3 deficiency. Because of the many discoveries relating omega-3 fats to improved brain function, it's no wonder that many people with epilepsy are turning to fish oil as a natural cure for their ailment.
Can Fish Oils Supplements Treat Epilepsy?
 

cweuser

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The problem with epilepsy is that it comes in a variety of forms and there is no "one size fits all" solution. What works for one epilepsy sufferer does not necessarily work for another.

I can consume a wide variety of Omega 3 oils ( Flaxseed Oil, Cod Liver Oil, Fish Oil etc) and can consume Omega 9 oils like the monosaturated olive oil without a problem but because I have temporal lobe epilepsy I cannot consume Evening Primrose Oil as it contains Gamma Linoleic Acid ( GLA).

GLA appears to lower the cell membrane threshold and permits seizures to occur with greater frequency.

I'm not sure if this occurs with all Omega 6 oils then again I'm not sure what the other Omega 6 oils are.

I eat plenty of oily fish ( mackerel, pilchards, sardines, tuna etc), chicken and plenty of salads.

I have heard that for some epilepsy sufferers a ketogenic Atkins style diet can be helpful but it varies from individual to individual.

My epilepsy is controlled by Phenobarbitol which has kept me seizure free since 1980 and I have had a driving licence since 1996.

I'd appreciate any information about foods containing Omega 6 oils which can be eaten safely.

Hope this helps.
 

RobinN

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Flaxseed oil is an omega-3 oil, but it must be
metabolized by special enzymes to form EPA and
DHA. The very young, the elderly, and those with
chronic illness have a deficiency in these enzymes.
In these cases, a high intake of flaxseed oil can be
harmful. Even healthy, young people have difficulty
converting flaxseed to the beneficial oils. Lecithins
from soy are less of a problem since most of soy
contaminants, such as the high manganese and
fluoride, as well as the isoflavones, are removed.
From the Blaylock Wellness Report March 2009
 

adams001

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Epilepsy is some what meant as brain disorder. This is rare disease in men with low fatty acids. For this you can get omega-3 fatty acid as a treatment. Brain is actually needs some acids to make it live!! So we people need to get some thing with our food in daily life. This need to be carefully taken out or otherwise, the brain wont act.

brainhealthandpuzzles.com/Omega_3_Fatty_Acids.html
 

Nakamova

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And chia seeds are a great source as well! I have both in my diet now, and also eggs that are fortified with Omega-3s.
 
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Gotta Agree.....

I use both flaxseed and chia seeds daily. I also take in coconut oil daily. I used to take "fish caps" but my nutritionist heeded warning against them. He feels that many are contaminated. You can figure it out by cutting open a capsule. If it smells very fishy, don't take it. Mine did---I stopped (they were supposedly organic, blah, blah blah)

At least, in my case, when I stopped the fish oil and added in both flax seeds, flax oil (Barlean's is great) and chia seeds I felt much better. The coconut oil is for Omega 6 and I love it by the spoonful (gross to some I know).

I think, overall, we need to look at our diets and look at what's missing. I ended up asking for a blood test to look at my levels. For example, my taurine came out so high due to my diet and supplements that I needed to stop with the supplements. My diet (raw vegan) and supplements are based on that. We have to be careful as you can overdose on vitamins and do yourself more harm than good. Unfortunately, no one tells us that when we go to take them (my tough love doctor told me)---LMT
 

ADK

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"Many scientists also believe that omega 3s might help stabilize cells and prevent them from generating erratic electrical signals in the heart and brain, which can cause irregular heartbeats, seizures and other problems.

Christopher DeGiorgio, professor of neurology at University of California, Los Angeles, has been testing this theory in epilepsy, with mixed success. In past studies, omega 3s haven't helped much to reduce seizures, he says. In a new study of 30 epileptics, he hopes to show that omega 3s reduce rates of sudden death. Sudden death—when an epileptic dies suddenly with no clear cause—accounts for about 20% of all deaths among epileptics, and irregular heartbeat can contribute to it, Dr. DeGiorgio says. He wants to test whether omega 3s help stabilize the heart and thus reduce cases of sudden death."

Story:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204348804574407372661465700.html
 
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