Tag Archives: omega-3s

  • The Healthy Benefits of Omega-3s

    The reported health benefits of omega-3s keep piling up—from boosting heart health to improving memory and concentration. Omega-3s are considered “essential” fatty acids because our body needs them for a variety of bodily functions. Since we can’t make them on our own, however, we must get them through diet or supplementation. The two main omega-3s are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are found most commonly in coldwater fish, but are also present in oils from algae, plants and flaxseed.

    Despite their “essential” label, many people are still deficient in omega-3s, and this deficiency has been cited as one of the top 10 causes of preventable death in the US among dietary, lifestyle and metabolic risk factors.

    Here are some of the most well-researched benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.

    Cardiovascular health
    Omega-3s have more scientific research backing their benefits for cardiovascular health than any other nutritional supplement. Strong evidence—thousands of clinical trials, in fact—suggest that EPA and DHA enhance overall cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol, high blood pressure and elevated triglycerides. The American Heart Association even recommends that people with coronary heart disease get 1 g each of EPA and DHA per day.

    Omega-3s also seem to reduce the risk of recurring heart attacks and abnormal heart rhythms in people who have already had a heart attack. In addition, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, large population studies have shown that people getting significant amounts of omega-3s in their diets have a 50 percent lower risk of stroke.

    Alzheimer’s and Dementia
    Recent research has shown that omega-3s may slow cognitive decline and reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. In a study published in May in the journal Neurology, researchers found that people who consumed the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids had the lowest levels of beta-amyloid plaque buildup, a marker in the brain for dementia and Alzheimer’s.

    According to the Mayo Clinic, omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in brain function. Because people with depression may have lower levels of EPA and DHA—important brain chemicals—they can benefit from supplementing with the EPA and DHA found in fish oil. It has also been shown that cultures that consume more omega-3 rich foods have generally lower incidences of depression.

    Prenatal health
    It is widely know that the EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids are vital for healthy infant development, especially for the eyes, nervous system and brain. In addition, supplementing with fish oil during pregnancy has been found to reduce the rate of respiratory illness in infants (according to a study published last year in the journal Pediatrics).

    Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, MD, member of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board, recommends 200-300 mg of DHA starting in the 25th week of pregnancy (learn more about her prenatal nutrition recommendations).

    Rheumatoid arthritis
    A number of small studies have found that fish oil helps reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, including joint pain and stiffness. A 2007 article in the journal Pain analyzed studies that tested the effects of omega-3s on pain and inflammation and showed that by taking omega-3s, patients were able to lower their doses of prescription anti-inflammatory medications and experienced a decrease in pain.

    Dr. Tori Hudson, ND, and member of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board, highly recommends omega-3 fatty acids for her patients experiencing any kind of joint pain.

    Explore our selection of omega-3 fish oils either in store or at pharmaca.com.

  • The Link Between Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Diabetes Risk

    Diabetes, which affects more than 23 million Americans, is the most common disorder of the endocrine system and occurs when blood sugar levels in the body are consistently higher than they should be. Approximately 3.4 million people die from diabetes each year; the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts diabetes-related deaths will double between 2005 and 2030. While type 1 diabetes is caused by the body's inability to make insulin, type 2 diabetes is caused by the body not responding to the effects of insulin. Unlike type 1, which is genetic, many experts believe that type 2 is largely preventable.

    According to three new studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, taking in an increased amount of omega-3 fatty acids from marine and plant sources may reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. Omega-3s are an unsaturated fatty acid found predominantly in fish oils and plant seed oils, and are an essential nutrient that most people simply don't get enough of in their regular diet. There are three main omega-3 fatty acids: ALA, EPA and DHA. Fish, especially fatty fish (cod, salmon, trout, mackerel, haddock), is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.

    The AJCN published the results of three studies--two on Chinese subjects and one on US subjects. The first Chinese study included data collected from more than 150,000 men and women and found that plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids were associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, while the second Chinese study found that omega-3 acids from fish sources was associated with reduced type 2 diabetes risk. The second study also showed that females responded better than males to the intake of omega-3s from fish. The US study followed 3,000 older men and women and found that both omega-3 fatty acids from fish and plant sources were associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

    Regardless of your age or where you live, it seems that omega-3 fatty acids from fish and plants can help reduce your risk of developing this deadly disease. Ask your Pharmaca practitioner about how omega-3 fatty acids can be taken safely to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.

  • Fish Oil During Pregnancy May Keep Babies Healthier

    A study conducted by a researcher in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University has found that women who take fish oil supplements during pregnancy may boost their baby's immune system and help protect them against colds during the first few months of their lives.

    Mothers who were given DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil, had infants who got sick less often and for shorter periods of time than babies whose mothers were given no fish oil. Cod fish oil--something Pharmaca practitioners regularly recommend--is also believed to help lower high blood pressure, lower cholesterol and improve brain function in children.

    The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, followed 851 women from the second trimester of pregnancy through the birth of their babies, and until the babies were six months old. Half of the women were given 400 mg of DHA daily starting in the second trimester, and the rest were given placebos. The women were asked whether their babies had experienced various respiratory problems (cough, phlegm, etc.)  in the previous 15 days. They were also asked if their baby caught a cold in that same time period. At one month old, the babies whose mothers took DHA experienced far fewer respiratory problems and were sick for shorter periods of time.

    Find cod fish oil supplements at Pharmaca. (Note: Please consult a doctor or Pharmaca practitioner before taking fish oil during pregnancy.)

  • Help for those with dry, sensitive skin

    Here in Boulder, Colo., where Pharmaca has its headquarters, we revel in the mixed blessing of dry air. While it's great to live without the humidity during the warm summers, at about this point in the season the dry air can lead to cracked, rough skin.

    That's why a recent study in the journal Skin Pharmacology and Applied Skin Physiology got us so excited. Turns out, supplementing with flaxseed oil (a good source of essential fatty acids), can help not only hydrate and smooth skin, but also reduce sensitivity.

    The study followed women who were given supplements of either safflower seed oil or flax oil. After 12 weeks, the women who were supplementing with the flaxseed had significant increases in skin hydration and smoothness, along with decreased sensitivity and transepidermal water loss.

    To find out why, we spoke with some practitioners at our South Boulder store, who told us that flaxseed contains a unique essential fatty acid called alpha-lipoic acid. ALA creates a fatty understructure in the skin that helps smooth out and plump the skin. Sounds good, right?

    While you can consume flaxseed through your diet, you can get higher concentrations through supplementation. Pharmaca offers flaxseed in either capsules or liquid form, with liquid being the biggest “bang for your buck.”

    Our staffers like Barleans Lignan Flaxseed Oil, a tasty way to get a liquid dose every day. Barlean’s even offers a combination oil, Total Omega Swirl, that includes GLA from Borage and Evening Primrose Oils, and EPA and DHA from Fish Oils.

    If you prefer a capsule, Pharmaca's Certified Organic Flaxseed Oil is another great way to go. Talk to a practitioner about how to incorporate more flax into your supplement regimen!

  • Omega-3s and your health

    Recent Omega-3 research:

    Omega-3s may protect against traumatic brain injury
    January 2011, Neurosurgery

    Omega-3s may reduce gum disease
    October 2010, American Journal of Dietetic Association

    Krill oil may reduce arthritis symptoms
    September 2010, BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders

    Omega-3s' anti-inflammatory mechanism revealed
    September 2010, Cell

    Every day, researchers are finding more links between low levels of omega-3 fatty acids and certain health conditions. A recent study, done by Harvard University and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, determined that there were 72,000-96,000 preventable deaths each year due to omega-3 deficiency. Here’s how fish oil can be an important addition to your life.

    How fatty acids work: There’s a simple reason why fish oil is thought to be so good for you: It’s rich in the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA, required structural components of every single cell in the human body. The human body cannot make EPA and DHA, however. They must be consumed in our diets.

    EPA and DHA work together, but each has its own unique benefits. EPA is thought to reduce inflammation, improve cardiovascular and circulatory health, and can be beneficial for those suffering with autoimmune or inflammatory disorders. DHA is important for brain, nerve and eye cells, and can support cognition, fetal and infant development, pregnancy and combat depression.

    Fish vs. flax Research shows that flax is a less efficient source of EPA and DHA. While flax contains another omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), our bodies can convert only a small percentage of it to EPA and DHA. (Read more about when to choose fish or flax.)

    Dosing: Remember that dosage, freshness and purity are keys to maximizing the benefits of fish oil. Fresh fish oil ensures that you get optimal results—rancid oil can cause free radical damage and may not be assimilated into the body as well. And pure fish oil can protect you from toxins such as PCBs or heavy metals.

    For general maintenance, most practitioners recommend a daily dose of about 500 mg of EPA and DHA. The British Nutrition Foundation Task Force suggests as much 1000–1500 mg/day, the American Heart Association 1000 mg for those with documented heart disease and the American Psychiatric Association 1000 mg for individuals with mood disorders.

    For more information:

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