Omega 3: SMASHing Research
Updated: Nov 30, 2022
There are a lot of fish in the sea, but some are more “SMASH”ing than others when it comes to your health care. Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines and Herring are the standouts for their high omega-3 content.
Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) associated with many health benefits including nerve function, blood clotting, brain health, and muscle strength. They are “essential,” meaning that the body needs them to function but cannot make them, so you must get PUFAs from your diet.
A recent study published in the journal Neurology, showed that higher levels of omega 3’s were associated with better brain health. The researchers found that even slightly higher blood levels of this fatty acid were beneficial and may help prevent dementia in certain middle-aged adults. Participants in the study were found to have a larger hippocampus-the part of the brain that is involved in memory formation and will often atrophy (shrink) with dementia .
Omega 3’s from fish oil contain Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a potent anti-inflammatory that acts on several different inflammatory pathways for twenty four hours after taking a 2,700 mg dose. A meta-analysis study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2019 showed that marine omega-3 supplementation lowers the risk for myocardial infarction, coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular death.
Omega 3’s also contain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which researchers have linked to lower mortality deaths from colon cancer. The study, based on the Nurses’ Health Study, and published in the journal, Gut in 2016, found that those whose diets were highest in omega-3 fatty acids had a decreased mortality rate from the disease and those with the lowest intake had a higher risk of death. Those who had higher blood levels of Omega-3’s also had a lower risk of bowel cancer.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s strong evidence that fish oils reduce triglyceride levels, which are associated with heart disease and diabetes. They also improve HDL, the “good” cholesterol and lower LDL, the “bad” cholesterol. In fact, allopathic medicine has discovered this fact and the pharmaceutical medications, Vascepa and Lovaza, are made from EPA and DHA and are prescribed for patients with high triglycerides.
PUFAs also help your body absorb Vitamin E and D, help maintain cellular integrity and act as a natural blood thinner which may help prevent blood clots.
For vegans and vegetarians there are plant sources of Omega-3’s in the form of Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA) which needs to be converted to EPA and DHA in your body. So, it’s important for non-fish eaters to get a lot of ALA-rich foods: Hemp seeds, Chia seeds, Flax seeds, Algal oil (from algae), walnuts, Brussels sprouts and kidney beans.
Because fish oils have the effect of blood thinning, please talk to your Functional Medicine practitioner, nutritionist, pharmacist or MD if you are taking blood thinners, have a clotting disorder, are pregnant or scheduling a surgery. If you have an allergy to fish, you should use vegetarian sources. But for those who like fish, have a “SMASHing” holiday season!
At Elixir Lifestyle Medicine in Ventura, California, we offer micro-nutrient testing through Genova Diagnostics, so we have the capability to look at our patients' Omega 3 levels. Please give us a call at 805-644-1064 to schedule an appointment.