Omega-3s like DHA and EPA are called essential fatty acids for a reason—they’re essential to our health. But just why are omega-3s so essential? We spoke with Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, ND, member of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board, about why she recommends essential fatty acids.
“Fish oil can help normalize the inflammatory process in the body,” says Dr. Low Dog. That’s vital, she says, because it seems that inflammation is what’s driving many of the chronic ailments we see today. We need a certain level of inflammation to heal ourselves, she says, but it’s the chronic levels that are causing a lot of health problems—like allergies, heart disease, arthritis, cancer and more.
Reducing insulin resistance
“Omega-3s have been shown to have very beneficial effects on insulin resistance in obese people without diabetes,” says Dr. Low Dog. People in this pre-diabetic stage see real results from fish oil, which helps increase insulin sensitivity, she says, and therefore reduces the risk of developing full-blown type 2 diabetes. And since the CDC believes the rate of diabetes in America will continue to increase, taking omega-3s preventively can be vital for a large portion of our population.
Supporting baby’s neurodevelopment
“Most of our brain and eyes are made from DHA,” says Dr. Low Dog. That’s why it’s a vitally important nutrient for baby’s development, specifically during pregnancy and breastfeeding. “You can’t give what you don’t have, so the baby may not be getting enough if there’s not enough DHA in Mom’s diet or they’re not getting a formula with added DHA.” That’s why she recommends that all pregnant or breastfeeding women eat fish or supplement with a vegetarian source of DHA.
Boosting cardiovascular health
There’s so much evidence showing EPA’s ability to lower triglycerides that it’s approved by the FDA as an effective therapy, either by prescription or over-the-counter fish oil supplements. “Studies have shown that about 4,000 mg per day can reduce triglycerides by about 30 percent,” says Dr. Low Dog. She adds that because omega-3s help fight inflammation and lower insulin resistance, they can also help reduce heart disease risk. “With fish oil, you’re getting a multitude of benefits for the cardiovascular system.”
A few more reasons…
There is strong evidence for fish oil’s effects on rheumatoid arthritis. “What they’ve found is that when you give 5,000 mg of fish oil to people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, it actually can reduce the need for so much medication. People are also more likely to go into remission,” says Dr. Low Dog.
“We think inflammation may be a direct link to depression,” says Dr. Low Dog, so fish oil’s ability to lower inflammation may also have some beneficial effects on depression itself. Medications used to treat depression can also drive inflammation, and it is well known people suffering from depression usually have a higher risk of heart disease. That’s why Dr. Low Dog almost always puts patients with depression or bipolar disorder on at least 1,000 mg of EPA per day.
There are new studies that showing overweight people, especially those with high abdominal obesity, saw greater weight loss on 1,000 mg of fish oil per day than others taking a placebo. “Weight around the midsection can increase insulin resistance, increase triglyceride levels, increase inflammation…and fish oil can help combat all of that,” says Dr. Low Dog. As if there wasn’t enough to love about fish oil!
Speak with your doctor or a Pharmaca practitioner about finding the right fish oil and dosage for your health concerns.