What is so great about fish? Other than it tastes good, it is good for you! It is a great source of protein and the Omega 3 Fatty Acids are good for your brain and your eyesight as well as your heart. Fish and fish oil contain two important omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). We do not get enough of these in our western diet.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are the biosynthetic precursors of a family of compounds called eicosanoids (prostaglandins, thromboxins, and leucotriens). These compounds are hormone-like substances that help retain normal health processes in our bodies. It is important to maintain an appropriate balance of omega-3 and omega-6 in the diet as these two substances work together to promote health. Yet despite the clear health benefits associated with omega-3 fatty acids, dietary surveys indicate that most of us do not obtain enough omega-3 fatty acids from our diets.
Here is a list of some of the benefits of eating fish and their Omega 3 Fatty Acids:
- They make your platelets less sticky and lower fibrinogen levels (fibrinogen is a blood-clotting factor). This means they decrease the chance of forming blood clots throughout your body, thus reducing the likelihood of a heart attack, stroke, or embolism (clot)
- They make your red blood cells more flexible so your blood flows more easily, lowering your blood pressure and improving delivery of nutrients and oxygen to your cells
- They lower blood fats (especially triglycerides) and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels
- They stabilise your heartbeat, preventing heartbeat abnormalities (arrhythmia) that can lead to cardiac arrest
- They may reduce microalbuminuria (an abnormally high amount of protein in the urine) and thus help patients on dialysis (a machine to filter the kidneys)
- They may elevate your mood, lift depression and improve your ability to deal with stress
- They reduce inflammation and can relieve symptoms of arthritis, and
- They may reduce the output of the stress hormone adrenaline.’
To reap the benefits of eating fish or taking fish oil capsules, it will depend on what kind of fish it is and where it comes from.
The FDA put out a warning a few years back about the risks of mercury in fish. They warned pregnant women that they should not eat more than 12 ounces of fish per week. It is the larger fish like the list below that seem to contain the highest amounts of methylmercury. Smaller fish have a little bit of mercury in them and these larger predators eat them and develop higher concentrations that can be dangerous to the nervous system and the brain.
Man has "polluted the nest" by emitting toxins into the air we breathe and the water that our fish swim in. If you test fish for contaminants, you will find other things like heavy metals, PCBs, pesticides, and organic residues. Unless your fish comes from the pristine waters off the coast of Alaska or Iceland, they probably contain some of these contaminants.
So, is there another way to get these Omega 3 Fatty Acids without ingesting the dangerous contaminants? How about fish oil capsules?
Unfortunately, the fish oil capsules that you buy at the grocery store or pharmacy could possibly contain whatever you are trying to stay away from. Many of them contain algae and other things that could cause stomach bloat and gas. A bad experience here could keep you from benefiting and having a positive experience from taking fish oil. Results from a study published in 1998 indicate that tests of 44 different fish oil supplement brands sold in 15 countries between 1994 and 1995 revealed appreciable quantities of organochlorines including PCBs and pesticide residues.
The difference comes in the quality of the fish oil. How can you tell the difference? A quality fish oil product has gone through a molecular distillation process. This removes the dangerous contaminants and concentrates the amounts of eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). Some people call this a "pharmaceutical-grade" fish oil. Actually, there is not such thing as pharmaceutical-grade fish oil just as there is no such thing as pharmaceutical-grade apple juice. At the crux of the issue is the fact that there simply is no agreed-upon set of standards (in technical terms, a monograph) for fish oil supplements to date. These official monographs are set by the US Pharmacopoeia Convention (USPC) to provide standards for the active ingredients in drugs, biologics, dietary supplements, and devices, defining their 'strength, quality, and purity' for human use. Simply put, nothing can truthfully be deemed ‘pharmaceutical grade' until it has been officially defined by an approved USPC monograph.High quality fish oil is a natural product that is obtained from fish but is highly filtered and concentrated for purity and safety. If you look at the grocery store brands, they usually contain a lot less of the Omega 3 fatty acids compared to a quality "pharmaceutical-grade" brand. Here is an example of what is contained in the Costco brand of fish oil capsules:
Fish Oil Concentrate 1000 mg
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) 180 mg,
DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) 120 mg
Here is an example of a brand that has gone through a molecular distillation process:
Fish Oil Concentrate 1000 mg
EPA (EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID) 290 mg
DHA (DOCOSAHEXAENOIC ACID) 235 mg
The higher quality pill has the toxins filtered out and is more concentrated. It should also contain some vitamin E. This is an antioxidant that will keep the pill from going rancid while it sits on your shelf at home. Look at the vitamin E as a natural preservative. You could also keep it in your refrigerator after you open the bottle, if you wish.
Most purification processes for fish oil remove any vitamin D from the product. Yet, experts now widely believe that a majority of people are not getting enough vitamin D, which has been shown to have many health benefits, such as supporting bone health and healthy lung function. If you can find a high quality fish oil that contains vitamin D, that is a plus. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil and vitamin D are also important structural components of retinal and neural tissues and may help retain eye health.
I take four pills (4 x 1000 mg.) spread throughout the day. My 90 year old father takes the same amount. He used to have arthritis pains in his shoulder that would wake him up at night. Those pains have been gone for the last three years now. He sleeps like a baby. His cholesterol levels (as well as mine) are perfectly normal without the use of statin drugs that have dangerous side effects.
If you are a vegetarian or have any problems with eating fish or taking fish oil, here is an alternative for you.
I take a fish oil capsule called Biomega by Usana Health Sciences. It goes through a double molecular distillation process and contains vitamin D and E. It does not get any purer than that. Other good brands are made by Carlson and Icelandic.
Here are some links to articles about the benefits of taking fish oil capsules:
If you are trying to keep from getting Alzheimer's Disease, read these articles.
If you are pregnant, read this article
If you have arthritis
Research: Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acid in Fish Oil