Ask the Coach Question One of the trainers with a nutrition background at my gym suggested that everyone take an Omega 3 supplement. I don’t eat fish regularly enough so that sounded like a good idea. I did some research and saw that fish oil is the best source, but wanted to know (1) if you recommend this as well and (2) if you have a type/brand that you recommend. — Ellen
Thank you for the question Ellen! You can’t open a health or fitness magazine these days without hearing about the benefits of omega fatty acids. However, with all the current research and onslaught of information, it can get kind of confusing. Here is a brief overview of omega fatty acids, why you should supplement and with what.
There are three types of omega fatty acids: Omega-3, Omega-6 and Omega-9. Each has its own benefits and food sources.
These are polyunsaturated fats and there are two types — long chain and short chain. The body must convert the short chain to long chain in order to use it, but this is a fairly slow process, thus long chain is preferred.
LONG CHAIN — Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
– Reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke
– Reduces triglyceride levels and the progression of atherosclerosis
– Reduces symptoms of hypertension, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), joint pain and other rheumatoid problems, skin ailments
– Boosts the immune system and possesses anti-inflammatory properties
– Potentially protects against Alzheimer’s disease
Sources: fatty fish (herring, mackerel, sturgeon, salmon and anchovies) , fish oil supplements and algae extract
SHORT CHAIN — Alpha linolenic acid (ALA)
ALA has not been shown to have the same cardiovascular benefits as EPA and DLA
– Anti-inflammatory properties
– Prevent bone loss
– Flax has 3 grams of fiber per tablespoon and healthy phytoestrogens
Sources: walnuts, flax (seeds, oil), canola and soybean oil
These are also polyunsaturated fats.
– Support skin health
– Lowers cholesterol
– Helps make blood “sticky” so it is able to clot
Sources: Eggs, poultry, cereals, vegetable oils, baked goods, and margarine
These are monounsaturated fats, named Oleonic acid.
– Lowers cholesterol levels, thereby reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
– Reduces atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
– Reduces insulin resistance, thereby improves glucose (blood sugar) maintenance
– Improves immune function
– Provides protection against certain types of cancer
Sources: olive oil, avocados
The most promising health effects are achieved when omega fatty acids are consumed in a 2:1 to 4:1 ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s. Americans typically get plenty of omega-6s, consuming a 10:1 or even 20:1 ratio — too much omega-6s and not enough omega-3s. In excess, omega-6s can have negative health effects. Since omega-3s reduce the impact of omega-6s, it is important to strive for the ideal ratio.
Experts recommend getting between 1-2.5 grams of omega-3s (EPA & DHA) per day. You can get this by eating 3-4oz fatty fish twice a week. Worried about mercury in the fatty fish? The FDA has said that 12oz per week is safe (except for children or pregnant women).
If you can’t get your omega-3s through diet, take a fish oil supplement in capsule or liquid form. Look for supplements that have a 2:1 EPA to DHA ratio and have a 5-Star International Fish Oil Standard (IFOS) Rating. There is no preference between liquid or capsules, although I lean towards liquid because it is easier than taking 8-10 capsules per day. For both, take with food, especially if you are worried about fish burps that are sometimes associated with fish oil supplements. Higher quality supplements typically don’t cause fish burps.
LIQUID FISH OIL
I prefer to take liquid Take 1-2 teaspoons per day. I use Barleans. You can buy it online or at the Vitamin Shoppe.
To get 2.5 grams, you will likely have to take up to 8 capsules. I’ve used this product — Smart Blend , which has both omega 3s and omega 6s.
Check out this article for a more detailed look at omegas.
If you don’t eat fatty fish at least twice a week, supplement your omega-3s. Take 1-2.5g per day in a high-quality liquid or capsule form.
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