Omega-3s Even More Important Than We Thought
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients. By definition, the body needs them to function properly. But our bodies can’t make them, so we must get them through the diet. There are some vegetable sources of one form, called ALA. Flaxseed and walnuts are two of the richest sources of this type of omega-3 fatty acid. But this form must be converted to the other types, DHA and EPA, which our bodies can use. Unfortunately, the conversion is highly inefficient. So what’s the best way to get enough omega-3s in your diet? Eat fatty, cold water fish, such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, or sardines.
People who don’t eat these types of fish regularly—or take fish oil supplements—may be deficient in DHA and EPA. And that’s a big problem, because these fatty acids are extremely important for numerous aspects of health. Many studies have concluded that a majority of Americans do not get adequate amounts of these crucial nutrients on a regular basis. Higher intakes have been linked to lower levels of heart disease, depression, neurological disorders, and inflammation, among other things.
Now, new research shows that scientists may actually have been underestimating the importance of one of these nutrients; DHA. Evidently, DHA helps prevent liver damage from fatty liver disease, and it may help prevent some of the complications of high blood sugar levels among diabetics. There’s even a theory that the dramatic and unexplained rise in cases of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as ADHD and autism, may be the result of multi-generational omega-3 fatty acid inadequacy. In light of these findings, I’d recommend that you add organic farmed—or even better, wild-caught—salmon to your menu at least a couple of times a week. You might also consider adding fish oil supplements to your family’s daily routine.
Kids, especially, may benefit from supplemental omega-3s, because their brains and nervous systems are still growing. For the same reason, it’s crucial that pregnant and nursing women consume plenty of omega-3s, too. Brain cells and nerve tissue rely on DHA as an important structural element. If it’s unavailable, the body may attempt to substitute saturated fat, and it’s a very poor substitute indeed.
Christopher M. Depner, Maret G. Traber, Gerd Bobe, Elizabeth Kensicki, Kurt M. Bohren, Ginger Milne, Donald B. Jump. A Metabolomic Analysis of Omega-3 Fatty Acid-Mediated Attenuation of Western Diet-Induced Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis in LDLR-/- Mice. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (12): e83756 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083756
Lyall K, Munger KL, O'Reilly ÉJ, Santangelo SL, Ascherio A. Maternal dietary fat intake in association with autism spectrum disorders. Am J Epidemiol. 2013 Jul 15;178(2):209-20. doi: 10.1093/aje/kws433. Epub 2013 Jun 27.