What are the benefits of DHA to your health, and what about EPA?

Today we want to look at the benefits of DHA, (Docosahexaenoic acid), the most important of the essential fatty acids (EFAs) known as Omega 3 fatty acids, but which sometimes go under the name of n-3 fatty acids or long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids.

The DHA benefits are numerous. Lets consider some of the reasons why DHA is so important to your health.

There are so many different fats, like saturated fats, trans-fats, unsaturated fats, essential fats that it all gets confusing. The bottom line is that there’s good fats and bad fats. Some are useful to your health and some are not. DHA as well as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are what is known as polyunsaturated fatty acids. These are beneficial to your health and most of us are deficient in our levels of these fats.

In the past our diet was much higher in fish and other seafoods. We got our polyunsaturated fatty acids in our diet. Now the average Western diet is too low in seafoods and as a result almost all of us are deficient in DHA and EPA.

Your body doesn’t produce essential fatty acids itself and so all of them have to come from your diet, or from high quality supplements.
DHA benefits

DHA and EPA are not the only omega 3 fatty acids. Whilst these are found in fish it is also possible to get ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) from plants, however ALA is not as useful to our body as DHA and EPA.

As well as omega 3 fatty acids there are also Omega 6 fatty acids. However whilst our intake of Omega3 fats has reduced over the years our intake of Omega 6 fats has increased. That is because the main sources of Omega 6 are oils such as sunflower oil, safflower oil, sesame oil and corn oil. As much of our processed food is cooked in or contains one or more of these oils our Omega 6 intake has increased.

An increase in the n-6 to n-3 ratio also has some serious health implications, we need to increase our intake of Omega 3 EFAs and reduce our intake of Omega 6 EFAs.

So lets have a look at the health benefits of docosahexaenoic acid. Somewhere around 60 % of the brain is made up of fat, and DHA is the predominant fat in the brain. It is also the predominant fat in the retina of the eyes.

An adequate supply of DHA is essential for the development of the brain and eyes, and pregnant or nursing mothers can supply of DHA to the fetus and the baby by taking DHA supplements themselves. Some infant formulas now contain DHA.

It is taken up more readily by the brain than any other fatty acid, because it crosses the blood/brain/placenta barrier more successfully. Most of the development of the brain occurs during the life of the fetus and infant. At birth the body weight of an infant is 5 percent of adult weight but the brain size is 70 percent of the size of an adult right. Most brain growth is completed by the age of 5 or 6.

There is evidence that 40% of children with ADHD have low levels of DHA. It is considered that it also has a beneficial effect on the academic performance of children in school.

It is also known that DHA has an important role in the development and health of the central nervous system.

For the adults studies are showing that it can help lower triglycerides and reduce the risks of heart disease, decrease blood viscosity thereby lowering the risks of blood clots and reduce the effects of various inflammatory diseases.

A study published in 2009 found that a deficiency of Omega 3 polyunsaturated fats was one of the most important causes of premature and avoidable death in the US, with somewhere around 72000 to 96000 people dying from this deficiency.

In many cases the studies are showing that the benefits of fish oil come from the combination of DHA and EPA together, and it’s difficult to separate out DHA benefits on their own. However it’s clear that increasing your intake of DHA is very important to your health.

Fish and fish oils supplements contain DHA and EPA together. However many have way more EPA than DHA, and some are now beginning to think it should be the other way round. That the DHA is more important to your health, and that this should be the predominant n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid in the fish oil capsules.

The best Omega 3 capsules now have more DHA than EPA.

There’s no doubt now that almost all of us on the western diet are chronically short of the essential fatty acids known as Omega-3, particularly DHA. And that for some of us this could cause our premature death.

The good news is that there are excellent fish oil capsules available that allow us to take our DHA, and EPA, daily, providing a higher amount of DHA than EPA.

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Up to 96000 of us die each year from Omega 3 deficiency. Are you taking your Omega 3 capsules?

That sounds a little melodramatic doesn’t it? That Omega 3 deficiency could be killing you? Melodramatic or not the results of a recent study has concluded that Omega 3 deficiency was responsible for between 72000 and 96000 preventable deaths in the US every year.

This study was not just intended to study the negative effects of Omega 3 deficiency but was in fact intended to study the general mortality effects of a range of identifiable dietary, lifestyle and metabolic risk factors in the US.

It was intended to study these factors so that the data could be used for health policy and priorities setting.

The 12 dietary, lifestyle and metabolic risk factors that were studied included high blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure, obesity, high dietary trans fatty acids and salt,  dietary polyunsaturated fatty acid levels, Omega 3 fatty acids, fruits and vegetable intake and  low physical activity, use of alcohol and smoking.

Not surprisingly the results concluded that the 2 biggest preventable lifestyle factors causing the highest number of preventable deaths in the US were smoking and high blood pressure. It was estimated that in 2005 smoking and high blood pressure were responsible for almost 800,000 preventable deaths in the US, accounting for around one in every 5 or 6 deaths of adults in America. Next came obesity and physical inactivity accounting for around one in 10 deaths.

The first thing that surprised us about this study is that Omega 3 deficiency was studied at all. There is ample evidence that low levels of the Omega 3 fats can contribute to various poor health outcomes including heart attack and stroke, however we had still not considered the possibility that deficiency of omega 3 in the population of the US could possibly contribute to so many deaths.
Omega 3 Deficiency

Estimates are that over 90 percent of adults in the US have too little intake of Omega 3 essential fatty acids and their diet and are therefore Omega 3 deficient. It seems clear from the study that this now contributes significantly to the risk of death from a range of health conditions such as heart attack or stroke.

And it’s not just an increase in the likelihood of health problems that are directly related to low levels of DHA and EPA. For example studies now show that low levels of Omega 3 essential fatty acids in the body can contribute to becoming overweight and that increasing your intake of both DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), the 2 most important Omega 3 essential fatty acids, can help you lose weight as part of an overall weight loss program.

And of course obesity itself contributes to a range of lifestyle diseases which themselves can result in disability or death. Therefore inadequate levels of essential fatty also contributes to these diseases indirectly by contributing to the sufferer carrying excess weight.

If you browse our categories at the right you will see a wide range of health conditions which have all been found to benefit from higher levels of Omega 3 essential fatty acids in the diet. The evidence is now so overwhelming that Omega 3 supplements are now the first nutritional supplements recommended by the American Heart Association.

With 90 percent or more of American adults being deficient in Omega 3 this has major implications for individuals and also for our health system.

Melodramatic or not the studies are now clearly showing the benefits of an increased intake of Omega 3 essential fatty acids found in fish oil and it is now quite clear that virtually all of this should be supplementing our diet with daily Omega 3 capsules, or eating more fish, or both.

The best Omega 3 capsules are way better than the worst and we have written articles helping you compare Omega 3 supplements, both for value and for quality. We hope you enjoy those articles.

There’s so many reasons to add fish oil capsules to your daily diet.

They might just prevent your death.

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Find out more about the benefits of fish oil for your heart. New research has uncovered some more reasons why your heart, and blood, loves it.

There’s no doubt that increasing the amount of Omega 3 essential fatty acids in your diet is good for your heart. It’s well known, and it’s confirmed by the American Heart Association, that maintaining a minimum intake of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids helps reduce your risk of heart disease and dying from a heart attack.

But new research is showing that there are other aspects of heart health that may also benefit from some more of those good essential fatty acids in your diet.

One of the reasons why the essential fatty acids are considered good for the heart is because it is now understood that these fats help thin your blood.

This is good because one of the causes of major cardiovascular incidents is blood clots. For example a stroke is caused by a blood clot.

And in fact most people who have suffered from a stroke are put on medication to help thin their blood to reduce the risk of another blood clot causing another stroke.Fish Oil 3

And it’s not only strokes, patients suffering from a range of other heart disease is can also be put on blood thinning medication.

A new study just released has shown that the effectiveness of blood thinning drugs can be improved by adding a dose of Omega-3 fatty acids to the diet in conjunction with taking the blood thinning drugs.

This study was undertaken at Jagiellonian University in Poland, and was specifically looking at the possibility of improving the outcome for patients who already had a stent in place for pre-existing coronary artery disease. Find out more about the details of the study here.

A stent is a very small tube made out of mesh that can be placed in arteries in the body to assist in their ability to successfully carry blood. It is used in instances where there is a possibility or a likelihood of a restriction in the flow of blood through a particular blood vessel, and a stent helps prop open that blood vessel to keep the blood flowing.

Commonly people with coronary artery disease are given stents to open clogged arteries where this may increase the likelihood of some form of cardiac events such as a heart attack.

In this study patients who had a stent, or who were being given a stent, and who were taking blood thinning drugs, were also given Omega 3 capsules as well as encouraged to eat oily fish, for it’s Omega 3 content. The amount of Omega 3 given was 1000 milligrams per day for the study group, and of course a placebo for the control group.

The patients were taking aspirin and clopidogrel. Aspirin in particular is well known now for its ability to thin the blood, and is on occasion prescribed to people who have suffered a stroke for its blood thinning capacity.

The intention of the study was to examine whether the efficacy of these blood thinning drugs could be improved by the use of the essential fatty acids which are also known to their blood thinning properties.

The conclusion drawn from the study was that adding Omega 3 to the intake of patients on blood thinning medications “improved clot properties and decreased thrombin [a clot promoter] formation after treatment with the fish oil capsules”.

Of course that’s just one of the health benefits to your heart from increasing your intake of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids. There’s many others.

And almost every month new research is being published, and undertaken, about ways to improve your health, including your heart health, from a daily dose of essential fatty acids.

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We know about the benefits of fish oil supplements to the heart. But beware.

We have talked about the health benefits of fish oil supplements before, to a range of health conditions, but in particular to the heart. However a study has now posed a warning.

The study has suggested that a high fat diet, and in particular a diet high in saturated fat foods, can cancel many of the heart benefits of omega fish oil.

The heart benefits of fish oil are well known, they include a reduction in the incidence of cardio vascular disease including fatal and non fatal heart attacks, as well as strokes.

But although you may be able to get these benefits from taking Omega 3 fish oil supplements you may be doing yourself a disservice if you’re taking your fish oil supplements and also eating lots of foods high in fat.Benefits Of Fish Oil

A new study has found that the benefits of fish oil supplements are highest when combined with a low fat diet, and that a high fat diet could cancel out some or all of the benefits. The study studied rats with heart failure. It looked at the correlation between the benefits of Omega 3 supplementation when combined with a diet high in saturated fats.

The study was conducted by scientists from a range of institutions led by William C. Stanley, Ph.D., from the University of Maryland-Baltimore. It concluded that even though the benefits of fish oil for the heart are known, these benefits can be cancelled out when a high saturated fat diet results in the fat levels in the heart blocking out the heart benefits of the fish oil taken.

It was thought that the high fat levels in the heart blocked the capacity of the heart cells to absorb the helpful polyunsaturated Omega 3 fats from the fish oil.

This study was conducted on rats which already had heart problems, so it’s difficult to know if these conclusions can be applied to people who take Omega 3 capsules but who don’t have any heart disease.

However there are also well known reasons why a diet of high saturated fat foods is not good for your health, so whether or not you already have heart disease there are still very good reasons why you ought to be taking Omega 3 capsules, AND be eating a diet low in saturated fats.

That way you get the health benefits of Omega 3 fish oil along with the health benefits of a good diet. What could be better?

There’s no doubt any more about the benefits of taking fish oil. But fish oil isn’t the only thing that offers health benefits. A diet high in fruit and vegetables and low in saturated fats is also well known to be extremely healthy, and there is also ample evidence that a lifestyle high in exercise is also one of the best things you can do for your health.

Combine Omega 3 supplements with a good diet and plenty of exercise, and watch those nasty fats, and you’ve got a recipe for good health.

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