Why Fish Oil?

Wednesday March 28th, 2012

A. Agility Ladder

"Dylan"

3 Minute AMRAP

15 Wall Balls (20/14)

10 Power Clean (75/55)

1 Minute Rest

3 Minute AMRAP

15 Wall Balls (20/14)

10 Sumo DLHP (75/55)

1 Minute Rest

3 Minute AMRAP

15 Wall Balls (20/14)

10 Power Snatch (75/55)

Importance of Omega 3's

There are a few theories scientists have for why humans headed on a different evolutionary path than other animals when it came to our large, complex brains.  One fact we know is that some of the earliest settlements of civilized people lived in coastal regions, and they fished, a lot.  Later settlements began moving inland, chasing herds of big game.  Some stayed and fished for life.  Over time, these early humans developed a diet high in lean protein, vegetables, nuts and fruits, which in combination began to fuel a more complex brain.  So what does this have to do with nutrition and health for modern humans?

Our brains are made up of 60% fat, more specifically, an Omega 3 fat called DHA.  DHA also makes up the sheaths that surround and protect our nerves, which network throughout our entire body.  Our fishing ancestors may not have known it but fish is the best source of DHA on the planet.  Some scientists believe that one factor in our brain development came from early people getting high doses of DHA.  So if eating fish and other Omega 3 fats had a part in catapulting us from cave paintings to rocket science, lets see what it can do for us today.

The Omega 3 family consists of the previously mentioned DHA and EPA (both are long chemical names).  When we eat fish we get good doses of both of these fats.

First here are sources of Omega 3’s :

 Animal: fish (especially salmon, tuna, mackerel, and anchovies), eggs, and grass feed meat

 Vegetarian*: leafy greens, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, hemp, walnuts ans spirulina

*These come in the form of alpha-linolenic acids which must be converted in the body to DHA and EPA.  Only about 10% gets converted.

Omega 3 fats have been proven to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and even triglycerides in the bloodstream.   Omega 3’s can raise the good cholesterol, HDL.  It can help children with autism and ADD as well as improve adults with depression.  The most interesting Omega 3 marvel is its anti-inflammatory qualities.  In order to understand the full effect of this benefit, Omega 6 fatty acids need to be quickly discussed.

Omega 6’s have very important functions in the body including thinning the blood and helping the nervous system function properly.  The problem is, in the U.S., we over consume this nutrient everyday.

Omega 6 sources:

Safflower oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, peanut oil

You may be saying to yourself, “I don’t eat any of these oils.”  However, these oils exist in nearly every packaged food.  When you eat in restaurants, these are the most common oils your food is cooked in.  I’m not saying these oils are bad for you they are just over used.

Many Americans are in a chronic state of inflammation.  When we eat too much of a certain Omega 6 (Arachidonic Acid) found in beef fat, it will get stored as fat in the body.  Then when we tap into our fat stores for daily energy this fat gets released and creates a slight inflammation throughout the body.  Our immune system sends out anti-inflammatory agents, leaving us more susceptible to infection/illness.  In other words, too much Omega 6 weakens our immune system and can eventually leave us open for more serious diseases.

There is a simple solution to this problem.  Omega 3’s and 6’s are partners in this fatty world.  They are about as yin and yang as it comes.  While Omega 6’s are pro-inflammatory, Omega 3’s are just the opposite.  They calm the cellular fire by displacing the previously mentioned Arachidonic Acid from the cell.  Currently, many people in the U.S. are eating a ratio of 6 to 3’s as high as 50 to 1.  Studies show the average ratio is about 15:1.  Our ancestors, with a diet plentiful in fish and wild, grass-eating game, ate a ratio of 1:1. Today, in order to avoid that state of chronic inflammation we should be consuming a ratio of around 3:1.

Other than inflammation and illness, this delicate ratio is important in preventing heart disease, cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, weight gain, and chronic fatigue.  Some researchers have found this ratio is one of the single most important health factors in our diets.  This ratio is out of whack mainly because our livestock is now fed grains instead of grass, which puts more Omega 6’s in their blood.   Also, the Omega 6 oils are cheap, and therefore used much more in cooking food in restaurants.

Eating more wild caught fish is one way to alleviate this problem.  Adding some of the Omega 3 sources listed above is also a great start.  If you wish to supplement fish oil, Patrick Holford, founder of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, recommends 350mg of both DHA and EPA.   The other way to shorten the ratio is eating less corn-fed fatty beef and using alternative oils like olive, rice bran, or flaxseed oil.