When we were wild, in the days of our homo-sapien ancestors, we ate wild animals and fish. Wild animals ate grass, plants or each other and the minimal amounts of fat they carried was healthy. Because we walked upright and have opposable thumbs it was easy for us to smash open the skulls and big bones of our prey, and these are an excellent source of the brain building oil, DHA. Essentially we evolved on a diet rich in healthy oils, proteins and non-starchy vegetables. Then we learnt how to farm, to grow grains and tame livestock that we could fatten up easily and quickly. So our lives got easier – but our good health more difficult.
Fats are broken up into families and the family under the spotlight here is the omega group: 3,6 and 9. Omega 3 is most prevalent in oily fish, wild meats and grass fed animals slaughtered late spring and during the summer. Omega 6 is most prevalent in grains and oils such as sunflower oil. Omega 9 is found in such oils as olive, macadamia and avocado. The balance of oils that is lost these days is the omega 3 to 6. Ideally that ratio is either 1:1 or 1:3. These days it is estimated at variously 1:12, 1:30 or even higher – and this causes us many health problems. So what does this imbalance do to us?
Since we have evolved to need a high level of omega 3 from the diet, its low levels mean that all diseases are improved by adding omega 3 to the diet. And the list runs through heart problems, weight problems, joint pain1, auto-immune conditions, mental problems and depression2, bowel problems and skin conditions such as eczema.
There are many You Tube clips extolling the benefits of fish oils. This one concentrates on the benefit to children – but the oils benefit all of us. Omega 3 has 2 components, EPA and DHA. Roughly speaking, EPA helps lower inflammation, so is good for lowering cholesterol, improving heart conditions and helping weight loss. DHA is used in the brain, the eyes, in pregnancy. The type of omega 3 suited to children will be one high in DHA.
Extra care must be taken when taking omega 3 supplementation. For the oil to be really clean, the country of origin should be Norway or California. Also if it is molecularly distilled it will be good. For a manufacturer to claim the oil is purified is meaningless – it could well have been purified with solvents and these are very damaging to health.
It is good to eat oily fish, but the fish must be wild salmon sized or smaller. Tuna and shark are laden with mercury and eating these regularly will cause appalling health issues.
- Tull SP, Yates CM et al. Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Inflammation: Novel Interactions Reveal a New Step in Neutrophil Recruitment. PLoS Biol 7(8): e10000177. doi: 10.1371/journal. pbio. 10000177 [↩]
- Vinot N, Jouin M, Lhomme-Duchadeuil A, Guesnet P, alessandri J-M et al. 2011 Omega 3 Fatty Acids from Fish Lower Anxiety, improve Cognitive Functions and Reduce Spontaneous Locomotor Activity in a Non-Human Primate. PLoS One 6(6): e20491. doi. 10.1371/journal. pone.0020491 [↩]