The Plain Truth

The Plain Truth
God's Hand Behind the News

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Are you hooked on fish oil yet? The natural wonder drug proven to treat a range of conditions

  • Fish oil
    All fish oils contain omega-3s, types of polyunsaturated fatty acid which are essential for health.
  • Fish such as mackerel, salmon, trout, sardines, pilchards and fresh tuna, which are known as oily fish, are the richest sources.
  • Dr Carrie Ruxton, nutritionist for the Health Supplements Information Service, says: ‘There are different types of omega-3 fatty acids, but the key health benefits  are believed to come from the very long chain omega-3s, called docosahexaenoic  acid [DHA] and eicosapentaenoic  acid [EPA].’
  • The Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommends we eat a minimum of two portions of fish each week, one of which should be an oily fish (one portion is about 140g). This provides a daily intake of 450mg of EPA and DHA.
  • Today many supplements will specify which type they contain and in what concentration.
  • EPA and DHA have different roles in the body. Dr Ruxton says: ‘Studies suggest DHA is more important for the brain, retina and infant development, while EPA is more important for vascular health [blood vessels].’
  • ‘The difficulty we have in the UK is that two-thirds of people don’t eat oily fish,’ she says. ‘The main source of long chain omega-3s in the diet is oily fish, and if we can’t get them from that, we need to consider a supplement to top up our diet.’
 CHOOSE THE RIGHT ONE                                                                                          
  • Fish oil supplements
    Supplements fall into three categories: fish oil, cod liver oil and krill oil. Which one you choose will depend on how much money you want to spend and what benefit you’re trying to get.
  •  Shona Wilkinson, head nutritionist at The Nutri Centre, says: ‘Cod liver oil comes direct from the liver, whereas fish oil comes from the flesh of oily fish. Krill are shrimp-like crustaceans that live in the ocean. The oil found in them contains omega-3s similar to those found in fish oils.’
  • Dr Ruxton says: ‘If you’re on a budget, cod liver oil or a standard omega-3 are the ones to go for. You don’t need to buy the most expensive brands to get the basic benefits. If you have a specific condition and need a high dose or are pregnant and don’t want the Vitamin A, the cost will go up.’
  • Cod liver oil generally has lower levels of EPA and DHA but also differs from fish oil as it naturally provides Vitamin A, which is important for good eyesight and healthy skin, and Vitamin D for bone and immune health. Cod liver oil isn’t suitable for use during pregnancy as it provides too much Vitamin A.
  • Dr Ruxton’s advice is not to look at the total amount of omega-3s when choosing a supplement, but at the total amount of EPA and DHA combined that a supplement provides. This should add up to 450mg per day.
  •  ‘Algae supplements for vegetarians also contain EPA and DHA – fish have EPA and DHA in their flesh in the first place because they feed on algae,’ says Dr Ruxton. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is another omega-3 fatty acid, which is plant-based and found in dietary sources such as vegetable, rapeseed and flaxseed oils. Our bodies can convert ALA into EPA and DHA but the process depends on how much EPA and DHA you take as well.
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