Throughout this wellness blog series, the genome centric lifestyle and what nutrients our bodies require to maintain its self-healing and self-regulating properties have been the main focus. Most of the nutrients that our body needs can be found in the foods that we eat, however, as our food supply has become industrialized and commercialized, our meat and produce have consequently become deficient in many nutrients, but most importantly, in three key essential nutrients: Omega-3’s, Vitamin D and probiotics.
In this blog, we are going to specifically look at Omega-3s. Humans genetically require sufficient amounts of pre-formed EPA and DHA Omega-3 fatty acids, primarily from wild game such as deer, grass fed beef, free range chicken and wild fish, such as salmon. Industrial and commercial farming techniques feed livestock soy, wheat and corn, which are foods that wild animals did not regularly consume until commercial farming existed, leaving our livestock practically devoid of omega-3 fatty acids and heavy on omega-6 fatty acids. Thus, the omega-6 intake is 11x that of omega-3, whereas the ideal human intake should be much more balanced. This leads to an imbalanced fatty acid state, increasing inflammation of the bodily systems (6).
Therefore, if you are eating wild deer, grass fed beef, free range chicken and wild fish (not farmed and not frying it!), you more than likely do not need to supplement omega-3s (7). For the rest of us, we must supplement or else symptoms of nutrient deficiency begin to manifest.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that play a critical role in virtually every human function including: growth and development, brain and nerve function, emotions and behavior, maintenance of skin and bones, regulation of healing and inflammation, cholesterol levels, digestion, heart function, immune function, vision, etc.
OMEGA 3 IN INFANTS AND CHILDREN
A Purdue University study, by Stevens et al, showed that kids low in Omega-3 essential fatty acids are significantly more likely to be hyperactive, have learning disorders, and to display behavioral problems (10).
Specifically, DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is essential for the growth and development of the human brain and nervous system in infants with deficiencies associated with fetal alcohol syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cystic fibrosis, unipolar depression, and aggressive hostility along with cognitive decline during aging and onset of sporadic Alzheimer disease (11). The inclusion of plentiful DHA in the diet improves learning ability, whereas deficiencies of DHA are associated with deficits in learning.
Another study looked at the levels of DHA found in the umbilical cord blood at birth, in the mother’s blood and in breast milk during pregnancy found that higher levels of DHA improved various measures of infant growth and development. During the last 50 years, many infants have been fed formula diets lacking DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids leading to many of these preventable diseases and disabilities. Thus, the best source of DHA for infants is found in mother’s milk, signifying the importance of breastfeeding until the child can start eating more solid foods that have Omega 3’s present.
OMEGA 3 IN ADULTS
DHA is also required for the maintenance of normal brain function in adults with decreases in the brain associated with cognitive decline during aging and with onset of sporadic Alzheimer disease. With the leading cause of death in western nations as cardiovascular disease, epidemiological studies have shown a strong correlation between fish consumption and reduction in sudden death from myocardial infarction. Patients with cardiovascular disease or Type II diabetes are often advised to adopt a low-fat diet with a high proportion of carbohydrate. However, a study with women shows that this type of diet actually increases plasma triglycerides and the severity of Type II diabetes and coronary heart disease!
The following is a list of diseases that can be prevented, resolved, and/or lessened with ingestion of Omega-3 fatty acids (2):
- Coronary heart disease
- Type II Diabetes
- Autoimmune disorders (lupus, nephropathy, psoriasis)
- Crohns disease
- Cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate
- Mild hypertension
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Because Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients, they are involved in almost every process in the body, whether directly or indirectly. In fact, Omega-3 fatty acids are 44% more effective than statin drugs in reducing death from cardiac events (9)!
For those supplementing with flax or other plant sources. Omega-3s via flax seeds are not a sufficient form of the human requirement. Humans are genetically incapable of properly converting LNA or ALA Omega-3 (plant fatty acid) to EPA and DHA (animal fatty acid) (8). We have been genetically designed to ingest pre-formed versions of DHA and EPA from other animals that do have the capabilities of converting plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids into animal sources. This is why they are considered essential nutrients. Thus, eat only grass fed, all natural, wild meat or supplement. These are the best foods to get proper doses of omega-3s (7).
When it comes to supplementing omega-3 fatty acids, it is imperative to buy a quality form, one that is contaminant free, with a manufacturer and distributor dedicated to quality and purity. If your fish oil tastes like fish or you belch fish after ingestion, you do not have a high quality omega 3 supplement. You are throwing your money away.
- Robert S. Goodhart and Maurice E Shils. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease 6th ED. (1980). Lea and Febinger. Philadelphia.
- Conner, W. E. Importance OF N-3 fatty acids in health and disease. Am J Clin Nutr, 2000 71(1): 171S-175S
- Farzaneh-Far et al. Association of Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels with Telomeric Aging in Patients with Coronary Heart Disease JAMA. 2010; 303(3):250-257.
- Simopoulos AP. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomed Pharmacother. 2002;56;:365-379
- Harmon, K Diets Low in Omega-3 Linked to Depressive Behavior in Mice. Scientific American Jan. 2011.
- Eaton, Eaton & Konner. Paleolithic nutrition revisited: A twelve year retrospective on its nature and implications. Eur J. of Clin Nutr. 1997: 51; 207-216
- Eaton et al. The return of n-3 fatty acids into the food supply. land based animal food products and their health effects. 1998 World Rev. Nutr. Diets. Vol 83, 12-23
- Gerster, H. Can Adults adequately converts alpha- linolenic acid (18:3n-3) to eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (22;6n-3)? Int J Vitam Nutr Res 1998. 68(3):159-73.
- Studer et al. 2005 Effect of Different Antilipidemic Agents on Mortality: A systematic review. Archives Internal Medicine. April 11, 725-730
- Stevens, LJ et al Omega-3 fatty acids in boys with behavior, learning, and health problems. Physiol Behav. 1996 59(⅘) 915-920.
- Horrocks, L.A. & Yeo, Y.K. (1999) Health benefits of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) Pharmacol Res. Sep; 40 (3): 211-25