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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The heart benefits of Omega 3 fish oil are confirmed once again. And this time dosage recommendations are made

Once again a new, mainstream study of the heart benefits of Omega 3 supplementation has come down on the side of the heart benefits of Omega 3 fish oil. Fish oil benefits the heart, there’s no doubt about that, but now there’s more data.

A recent study by the American College Of Cardiology has confirmed the ability of a minimum level of Omega 3 fats in the diet to reduce the risk of heart disease. Heart disease and in particular heart attack is one of the biggest killers in our society, and so anything that reduces our risks of heart disease just has to be good.

This study followed 40,000 people, a significant number of people, over 4 separate trials. The studies concluded that there were clear heart related benefits to Omega 3 fats in increased levels in the diet, and also recommended exact levels of intake.

The recommended levels of essential fatty acids are as follows:Fish Oil and Heart Disease

For people with no known risk of cardio vascular disease,  500 mg per day of EPA and DHA together, no recommendation was made about the relative quantities of each. It was noted that further studies need to be done to determine the relative quantities of EPA and DHA.

And for individuals with known coronary heart disease problems, 1000 mg per day of EPA and DHA.

Often a study will provide a conclusion about the benefits of Omega 3 fats in the diet but make no recommendation as to quantity. This time a quantity is specified which gives us more guidance.

If you want to read the study then click here, note that it is in pdf format and that it is a scientific paper, so complex.

How do you get your 500 mg, or 1000 mg, per day? (Remember, always consult your doctor before beginning supplementation)?

Use the best Omega 3 supplements have over twice as much DHA as your average supplements, at 280 mg per 1000 mg capsule. They’re more expensive than most, but when you factor in the amount of DHA, and realize that you have to take half as many capsules as most others, they don’t appear as expensive as on first glance.

And on a comparison of all the important factors in choosing the best Omega 3 supplements they come out well in front for value and effectiveness.

And we’ve written more details about all the benefits of Omega 3 supplements if you’d like to find out more about all the health benefits of taking fish oil supplements, not just the heart benefits.

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The benefits of Omega 3 to the human body have been studied extensively. What does fish oil do for you?

Fish oil. Everywhere you seem to read about the benefits of Omega 3, and the Omega 3 fatty acids that fish oil contains, to our health. Lets summarize the health benefits of fish oil.

Firstly let us say that there is not unanimous scientific agreement on all of these health benefits of taking Omega 3 fish oil. Like all these things there is always some disagreement, and continuing studies. But overall there seems to be more general agreement amongst the scientific community that Omega 3 fats from fish are good for us and we ought to all be eating more Omega 3 fats.

Here they are, the health benefits Of Omega 3 fish oil

1. Heart and Cardiovascular benefits of Omega 3 fish oils.

There is now very extensive research on the heart and cardio vascular benefits of taking fish oil supplements. And almost all of it comes down in favor of taking supplements (or eating LOTS of fish) for your heart. The research is mainstream and is clearly supported by the American Heart Association, which recommends the benefits of omega 3 oils to everyone.

The heart benefits of fish oil concentrates are varied. The Omega 3s help reduce the incidence of triglycerides in the blood and elevate the good cholesterol (HDL). They lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) and they also help lower blood pressure. All these are very good for your heart particularly given the incidence of cardio related deaths in our society.

2. Reduction in the risk of stroke.

Firstly there is a reduction in the risk of stroke. Stroke is a very serious matter, with many people every year either dying, or becoming seriously disabled due to strokes. The incidence of stroke in our society is high, and the result of having a stroke can be catastrophic.
Benefits of Omega 3

Strokes are caused by blood supply in a blood vessel being interrupted by a blood clot. Fish oils help reduce the risk of blood clots, thereby reducing the risk of stroke.

3. Improvements in brain function and reduction in Alzheimers and dementia.

Studies show improvement in memory and thinking ability and also improvements for children in brain development. Promising results are also being seen in lowering the risk of age related brain decline like Alzheimers and dementia.

Not only that but some studies show a reduction in depression and bipolar disease from taking Omega 3 supplements, very promising indeed for sufferers of these illnesses which can be totally devastating.

4. Reduction in the risk of macular degeneration

Macular degeneration is an age related condition that can lead to total blindness in older age. It has been untreatable to date and there are now studies showing that one of the health benefits of omega3 fish oils in the aged is a reduction in the risk of macular degeneration.

5. Reduction in the risks associated with diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a mainly lifestyle associated condition. It can be quite debilitating for sufferers though and in some cases can lead to death.

One of the major reasons why type 2 diabetes can result in death is that it can lead to heart problems. Type 2 diabetes can be characterized by high levels of triglycerides in the blood and lower levels of good cholesterol. The risks of death by heart attack for diabetes sufferers are around 6 times higher than they are for the general population.
Benefits of Omega 3

The heart benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids include lowering the risk of heart attack, and this is particularly important for diabetes sufferers.

6 Improvements in skin health.

One of the benefits of taking Omega3, believe it or not, is an improvement in skin health. The skin care industry is a massive one because so many women want younger looking healthier skin. Omega 3 supplements help them achieve exactly that. Our skin loses some of it’s natural oils all the time, and fish oil supplements help replace those natural oils.

There is quite a wide range of skin conditions that are helped by taking Omega 3 supplements including eczema, psoriasis, skin dryness and skin flaking, and more.

The best results for the skin are to be had from taking Omega 3 supplements along with using extremely high quality skin care products. Combine these 2 and you have a recipe for optimum skin care.

7. Weight control.

Studies have shown that increasing Omega 3 intake can help reduce the incidence of obesity in animals, and that the same can be true for people. The studies aren’t conclusive, however there is no doubt that there are a wide range of different health benefits of Omega 3 fats, so you ought to be taking them regardless, so if the studies are right then some weight control effects won’t go astray either.

And as overweight people can also have cardio vascular issues there’s no doubting the benefits of Omega 3 fats for the cardio vascular system.

8. Reduction in problems associated with mood disorders like depression and bipolar

Studies suggest a strong link between Omega 3 intake and lower levels of some mood disorders, particularly depression and bipolar disorder.

9. Improvements in Arthritis

Omega 3 fats help reduce inflammation in the body, and this helps us with a wide range of health disorders. One of the disorders associated with inflammation is Arthritis, and so taking Omega 3 supplements helps reduce the incidence of Arthritis.

Studies have concentrated on Rheumatoid Arthritis, but have shown a reduction joint tenderness and stiffness and for those taking extra Omega 3 s in their diet can result in a reduction in the need for Arthritis medication.

Other conditions that may be beneficially affected by Omega 3 fats:

1 Use for burns victims.

It is considered likely that the anti inflammatory properties of Omega 3 fats aid in treating burns but  it is not sufficiently studied.

2. Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Studies have suggested that one of the benifits of Omega 3 may be to reduce symptoms of Chrohns Disease and ulcerative colitis.

3. Asthma

Possibly an increase in Omega 3 fast may help improve lung function and help alleviate asthma.

4. Reduction in the risks of various cancers including bowel cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer.

There are also studies suggesting a link between increasing Omega 3s and reductions in various types of cancer, but more research is needed and is continuing.

Summary.

Like all things  to do with health and medicine it’s always difficult to say when something is proven, and there will always be experts on both sides of the argument. It seems the evidence for the cardio vascular benefits of Omega 3 supplementation is the strongest, but that there is also significant evidence in support of the other conditions mentioned above.

What to do about it?

It’s quite clear that everyone ought to be keeping their intake of Omega 3 fatty acids high, and that our diets, on average, are too low in Omega fats. There is ample evidence of the benefits of Omega 3 supplementation in many areas, and for these reasons sales of fish oil supplements are growing faster than any other supplement in history.

The AHA recommends Omega 3 fats for our diets. That’s quite clear. Whether some benefits of omega 3 intake are proven or not there are clearly significant health benefits from taking them, and secondary benefits like weight control may just be icing on the cake. Either way we all ought to be getting more Omega 3 in our diets.

What to take?

It’s also clear that we ought to be limiting our intake of some fish, and to take daily Omega 3 in adequate amounts is difficult unless we take the best Omega 3 capsules available.

The best Omega 3 supplements are excellent value for reasons we have outlined in our article about how to find the best Omega 3 supplements. Not the cheapest, but the best.

Note that particularly if you have pre existing medical conditions you ought to consult your doctor before starting dietary supplements including Omega 3 supplements.

To your health.

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