Why You Need Omega-3 To Prevent Disease and Live Longer

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I
am often asked what addition to the diet, outside of increasing
the intake of water and fresh green vegetables, I most recommend
to fight and prevent disease and live longer. My answer is easy:
fish oil, fish oil, fish oil! More specifically, as you should read
below, fish oil for those whose vitamin D levels are adequate, and
cod liver oil for those who will benefit from its high vitamin D
levels.

Americans
consume a dangerously insufficient amount of omega-3 fats, long-chain
polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential to health but only
found in fish oil and a few other foods. I am convinced that this
lack of omega-3 in our diets is a primary reason behind many of
the diseases Americans face, and our shorter lifespan in relation
to many other “first world” countries such as Japan or Greece.

Omega-3
is typically found in flaxseed oil, walnut oil and fish.

By
far, the best type of omega-3 fats are those found in that last
category, fish. That’s because the omega-3 in fish is high in two
fatty acids crucial to human health, DHA and EPA. These two fatty
acids are pivotal in preventing heart disease, cancer and many other
diseases. The human brain is also highly dependent on DHA – low DHA
levels have been linked to depression, schizophrenia, memory loss
and a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Researchers are now
also linking inadequate intake of these omega-3 fats in pregnant
women to premature birth and low birth weight, and to hyperactivity
in children.

Unfortunately,
most fish are contaminated with mercury and PCBs and are no longer
safe to eat. Unless you can be certain via lab testing that the
fish you are eating is free from contaminants I do not recommend
eating it. But there is a way to get the healthy omega-3 from fish
without the risk of contamination and that is by regularly consuming
fish oil or cod liver oil. Fish oil contains high levels of the
best omega-3 fats – those with the EPA and DHA fatty acids – and,
as it is in pure form, does not pose the mercury risk of fresh fish.

Adding
the omega-3 found in fish and cod liver oils to your diet will:

  • Help fight
    and prevent heart disease, cancer, depression, Alzheimer’s,
    arthritis, diabetes, ulcers, hyperactivity and many other diseases
  • Increase
    your energy level and ability to concentrate
  • Provide
    greater resistance to common illnesses such as flu and cold
  • Help pregnant
    women avoid premature births, low birth weight and other complications

As
fish oils are by nature very perishable and subject to variances
in quality, it is extremely important that you use a high-quality
brand. I have researched brands and types of fish oil and cod liver
oil extensively, and can with absolute confidence recommend both
the Living
Fuel Omega 3 & E fish oil capsules with full-spectrum vitamin
E
and the Carlson’s
brand of fish oil and cod liver oil
. Both are rigorously tested
for potency and purity, and because these exceptional brands may
be difficult to find in health food stores, I now offer them on
my Web site. There are likely other high-quality brands out there,
and you can seek them out in your local health food store, but these
are the two brands that I most highly recommend.

A
quick note on the difference between fish oil and cod liver oil – as
I mentioned above the main difference between cod liver oil and
fish oil is that cod liver oil is high in vitamin D. Many people,
especially those who don’t have adequate sun exposure, are deficient
in vitamin D and would therefore benefit from taking cod liver oil.
You should have your vitamin D levels tested to know for sure whether
the added vitamin D will benefit you, as it is possible to overdose
on vitamin D. Generally, I recommend cod liver oil in the cool winter
months when sun exposure is low and fish oil in the warm summer
months when you likely receive more exposure to the sun, and therefore
more vitamin D as well.

When
talking about omega-3 fats, it's important to also be aware of omega-6
fats in order to understand their immense role in health. These
two types of fat, omega-3 and omega-6, are both essential for human
health. However, the typical American consumes far too many omega-6
fats in their diet while consuming very low levels of omega-3. The
ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is 1:1. Our ancestors evolved
over millions of years on this ratio. Today, though, our ratio of
omega-6 to omega-3 averages from 20:1 to 50:1! That lack of omega-3
from fish oil is one of the most serious health issues plaguing
contemporary society.

The
primary sources of omega-6 are corn, soy, safflower and sunflower
oil; these oils are overabundant in the typical diet, which explains
our excess omega-6 levels. It's important to avoid or limit these
oils.

A
major part of the problem is that at the beginning of 1900 we had
very little processed vegetable oils, which are virtually 100 percent
omega-6 fat, in our diet. In the last 100 years the U.S. population
has gone from consuming virtually no vegetable fats to consuming
more than 70 pounds per person per year. It is likely this unnaturally
high consumption of omega-6 fats that is totally distorting the
important omega 6:3 ratio.

So
as I mentioned above, it is vital to reduce the omega-6 vegetable
oils in your diet as much as possible while increasing the amount
of beneficial omega-3 fats. Doing so will help you to prevent a
long list of diseases and I highly recommend that everyone – from
infant to senior and every age in between – make these dietary changes
for health today.

May
27, 2004

Dr.
Joseph Mercola is the founder of www.Mercola.com,
home of the free "e-Healthy
News You Can Use" newsletter
and author of Dr.
Mercola’s Total Health Cookbook & Program
.

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