Previously by Margaret Durst: Homeopathics — Strange, butEffective!
Omega 3 Oils are a part of the family of essential fatty acids (EFA) that are collectively called vitamin F. These oils are notoriously absent in the standard American diet, making them an important supplement. Symptoms of omega 3 deficiency include dry skin, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, impaired immune function, decreased learning ability, memory loss, and impaired vision.
While there is no shortage of fat in the American diet, there is a strong differentiation between good fats and bad fats. Most people are familiar with classifications of fat such as saturated and unsaturated with polyunsaturated being considered the most healthful. Omega 3, 6 and 9 are the essential fatty acids and are all polyunsaturated fats.
Good sources of omega 3 oils are flaxseed, walnut, and fatty, deep-water fish oil. Omega 6 oils are found in common vegetable oils such as soybean, safflower, sunflower, corn, and sesame. Omega 9 oils are found most commonly in olive oil.
What is important about these essential oils is how they affect our overall health. Omega 6 oils are consumed in excess in our culture and cause problems such as inflammation, blood clotting, and tumor growth. Many scientists believe that the high incidence of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, premature aging, and some forms of cancer is directly related to the excess of omega 6 oils relative to the lack of omega 3 oils in our diet.
Omega 3 oils counter the effect of excess omega 6 oils in our diet. Clinical trials have shown that fish oil supplementation is effective in the treatment of many disorders including Alzheimers, hyperactivity, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and ulcerative colitis. A sizable amount of medical literature shows that omega 3 oils prevent and may help to lessen or reverse atherosclerosis, angina, heart attack, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.
Notable studies include: a German study showing that omega 3 supplementation for 2 years caused regression of atherosclerotic deposits; American research indicating a 50% lower risk of death from a sudden cardiac event in men eating fish once or more every week as compared to men eating fish less than once per month; and a Greek report that fish oil supplementation reduces the number of attacks by 41% in men suffering from angina.
In looking for an omega 3 supplement, quality is essential. Low quality oils may be unstable with a tendency to go rancid and may also contain significant amounts of mercury and pesticides. High quality oils are sometimes stabilized with vitamin E and are packaged in dark glass or plastic as light causes deterioration of the oil.
Note that omega 3 supplements will thin your blood. If you have any clotting disorder, or take a prescription blood thinner or other medication for heart conditions, please consult with your medical doctor before supplementing.
Margaret Durst owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.