"The combined effects of taking an Omega 3 and GLA supplement together are exponentially better for you than taking either alone..."
When people come to Optimum Health Vitamins and they are just looking for a basic protocol to help them maintain wellness, there are five areas that I feel are highly important to address when choosing an Omega 3 fatty acid supplement. Health is a very individual process and cannot be guaranteed by simply eating certain foods or taking certain vitamins. However, despite biochemical individuality and the changes we experience in it over time, there are a few common denominators that can apply to most individuals seeking good health. In this article I am going to discuss essential fatty acids.
Essential fatty acids are called essential for a reason
Our body cannot manufacture them in large enough quantities to satisfy our nutritional needs. They are classified as polyunsaturated fats, but are commonly known as Omega 3 (Alpha-Linolenic Acid[ALA], Eicosapentaenoic Acid[EPA], Docosahexaenoic Acid[DHA]) and Omega 6 (preferably the Gamma-Linolenic Acid [GLA] form). Oftentimes an essential fatty acid formula will include Omega 9 (Oleic Acid), but as it is readily available in the diet through the use of raw oils (olive and grapeseed especially) it is not as important to have a formula that contains it, as long as you are getting it through your food.
Not all Omega 3's are created equal
You’ve probably heard a lot about Omega 3 fatty acids in the last few years, but just like anything, not all Omega 3s are created equal. Firstly, food sources of Omega 3s include green leafy vegetables, canola oil, flaxseed oil, soy products, some nuts and fish. Many very popular products provide Omega 3s from said plant sources; however, this is not the most effective way of obtaining your essential fatty acids. Plant sources of Omega 3s provide the body only with Alpha Linolenic Acid which must be converted several times in your system before it can be properly utilized as EPA and DHA. Compared to other supplements on the market, the levels of EPA and DHA that you end up with are likely insufficient. If you are a high-performance or endurance athlete, you may find performance enhancements from consuming a primarily ALA-dense supplement such as Udo’s 3-6-9 Oil as it readily converts into usable energy. In this case, it would be important to take this in addition to an EPA/DHA supplement.
Fish is a superior source of Omega 3's
Fish is the true superstar when it comes to supplying these fatty acids, especially cold water fish such as sardines and anchovies, as these sources are exceptionally rich in the increasingly important EPA and DHA. These Omega 3s are imperative for healthy immune and endocrine function, healthy elimination, strong metabolism and gene expression, good cognitive function and memory retention, as well as healthy joints and connective tissue. In the past and even today, many doctors recommend salmon oil as a suitable supplement; however, again, reading your labels becomes increasingly important. For a quick comparison, grab a bottle of salmon oil capsules and a bottle of fish oil derived from sardines, anchovies or cod and you will quickly see that the latter is significantly higher in EPA and DHA for taking the same amount of capsules or liquid as salmon oil. And most often, there is little to no price difference, so sardines and anchovies or cod are the way to go.
Many clients ask me why they just can’t eat fish and get all of the Omega 3s they need. This is because you would have to eat a fair amount of fish weekly, which is possible, but frankly, that just isn’t as safe as it used to be. Heavy metals contaminate our oceans at rates never before seen and these dangerous metals such as mercury can accumulate in larger fish like salmon or tuna. When we consume them, we consume the heavy metals too which, over time, can lead to all sorts of health problems. It is best to keep fish consumption to a maximum of three times per week and to supplement with molecularly distilled fish oil. This means that at the level of a molecule, all toxins and heavy metals have been removed from the product making it safer to consume than a fish fillet!
This is not even to mention the fact that Omega 3 fatty acids are highly unstable and can degrade very easily when near heat sources. Most of us cook our fish, outside of consuming sushi and sashimi, so note that the valuable essential fats in our salmon or our herring can be altered if we fry or bake them with other oils.
A little bit about Omega 6
Omega 6 fatty acids, in the less necessary Linoleic Acid form, proliferate our daily food supply in poultry, avocadoes, eggs, cereal grains, nuts, and most vegetable oils. Remember, however, all Omega 6s are not created equal. It may not always be important to find a product that combines Omega 3s with Omega 6s if dietary consumption is varied and sufficient but what is important to note about Omega 6s though, is that many sources of this fat provide the body only with Linoleic Acid. According to some sources, this tends to increase inflammation in the body via Prostaglandin E2. The body will convert Linoleic Acid to Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) through the D6D enzyme, but a deficiency can occur when this conversion becomes inefficient through reasons of age or other dietary deficiencies. Thus, it is important, when looking for an Omega 6 supplement, to insure that the fats are derived from borage oil, evening primrose oil, or blackcurrant oil which provide GLA in significant quantities upfront.
The combined effects of taking an Omega 3 and GLA supplement together are exponentially better for you than taking either alone. This is because of the preferences of an enzyme that would otherwise cause a conversion of arachadonic acid to inflammation causing chemicals (namely prostaglandin E2). When we consume Omega 3s and GLA together, this enzyme gives preference to anti-inflammatory chemical pathways and serves to decrease overall inflammation in the body. This is important because excess inflammation is one of the major contributors to most modern degenerative diseases including arthritis, colitis, respiratory conditions, bowel diseases, heart disease and so forth.
A few examples of good essential fatty acid supplements include NutraSea by Ascenta, Complete Omega 369 by Nordic Naturals, Synergy-3 by Optimum Health Vitamins and Super Critical Omega Fish Oil from Renew Life.
NutraSea has been an old standby at Optimum Health Vitamins because of its high quality and affordable prices. Their fish oils are derived from sardine and anchovies and provide 1500mg of Omega 3 per teaspoon, supplying 750mg of EPA and500mg of DHA. It comes in liquid or capsules, however, I prefer to recommend the liquid. Nowadays, fish oils don't taste like fish, but rather companies have been using citrus fruits such as lemon and herbs such as rosemary to naturally preserve the oil and give it a refreshing flavour. Plus, one small teaspoon of the fish oil in the morning replaces having to swallow 4 large softgels. Take it with Trophic’s Borage Seed Oil (at one capsule per day) and you are set!
Complete Omega 369 by Nordic Naturals is popular for people who don't get a lot of raw oils in their diet to provide them with their healthy fats. One teaspoon of this oil provides 675mg of EPA and 450mg of DHA derived from sardines and anchovies, as well as 165mg of GLA derived from borage seed and 470 mg of Omega 9. With a natural lemon flavour as well, it is simpler to take the liquid as well, as two softgels of the same product provide less than half of the above essential fats. Overall, this is a high-quality oil from a company that has been around for years and is well-known for its products. It can be a simple addition to an erratic diet for people who travel a lot or are simply too busy to worry about proper oil consumption ratios during the day.
Super Critical Omega by Renew Life. One capsule of this product contains 790mg of EPA and 140mg of DHA, as well as 1000IU of the ever-important Vitamin D3 and 5mg of lipase. Lipase is a digestive enzyme that helps break down fats properly in the body and reduces the instances of burping or "repeat". Perhaps the most alluring prospect of this product is the fact that it uses the same delivery mechanism that the Renew Life probiotics do - an aqueous enteric coating that insures the fish oil bypasses the stomach acid and opens in the small intestine where bile and the lipase contained within will emulsify and break down the fat properly for better (they claim up to 3x) absorption. The main reason that products such as this are able to contain such large quantities of EPA and DHA is due to the production of these oils in an ethyl-ester form. This means they have been slightly altered, hence the presence of lipase to aid in the digestion. For people with finicky stomachs or those who prefer the natural triglyceride form for their oils, the NutraSea or Nordic Naturals are great alternatives.
Bear in mind that even in a perfect world, Essential Fats are largely indispensable to achieve optimum health. This means that even if you eat a perfect, proportionate diet from 100% organic sources, odds are that you could be functioning below par.
Disclaimer: The above information is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your physician.