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Omega-3 is Essential to the Human Body

March 16, 2002 | 42,331 views

A Purdue University study has showed that kids low in Omega-3 essential fatty acids are significantly more likely to be hyperactive, have learning disorders, and to display behavioral problems. Omega-3 deficiencies have also been tied to many conditions, including the following:

dyslexia violence
depression memory problems
weight gain cancer
heart disease eczema
allergies inflammatory diseases
arthritis diabetes

Over 2,000 scientific studies have demonstrated the wide range of problems associated with Omega-3 deficiencies. The American diet is almost devoid of Omega 3's, except for certain types of fish.

In fact, researchers believe that about 60% of Americans are deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids, and about 20% have so little that test methods cannot even detect any in their blood.

The human brain is more than 60% structural fat, just as your muscles are made of protein and your bones are made of calcium. But it's not just any fat that our brains are made of. It has to be certain types of fats, and we no longer eat these types of fats like we used to.

Worse, we eat man-made trans-fats and excessive amounts of saturated fats and vegetable oils high in Omega-6 fatty acids, all of which interfere which our body's attempt to utilize the tiny amount of Omega-3 fats that it gets.

Other parts of our bodies also need Omega-3 fatty acids. Symptoms of fatty acid deficiency include a variety of skin problems such as eczema, thick patches of skin, and cracked heels.

Signs of Fatty Acid Imbalance (from the book "Smart Fats")

Dry skin Alligator skin
Dandruff Lowered immunity
Frequent urination Fatigue
Irritability Dry, unmanageable hair
Attention deficit Hyperactivity
Soft nails Brittle, easily frayed nails
Allergies Excessive thirst
"Chicken skin" on back of arms Frequent infections
Dry eyes Learning problems
Poor wound healing Patches of pale skin on cheeks
Cracked skin on heels or fingertips  

Imagine your brain conducting some routine maintenance on your dopamine and serotonin receptors (implicated in both ADD and mood disorders). These receptors are composed of an Omega-3 fatty acid called DHA.

If you don't have much DHA in your blood, man-made trans-fat molecules may be used as a construction material instead. But trans-fats (hydrogenated oils) are shaped differently than DHA: they are straight while DHA is curved.

The dopamine receptor becomes deformed and doesn't work very well. Repeat this scenario day after day, year after year, and you could wind up with problems like depression and problems concentrating. This problem is most severe for a child whose brain is still developing.

A lack of highly unsaturated fats is particularly noticeable in connection with brain and nerve functioning. An adjustment in diet to one with oil and protein contents high in unsaturated fats brings the best results in children.

Now imagine a child in school learning math. The act of learning requires the brain to form new neural pathways. DHA is needed, especially for the delicate neural synapses which are composed entirely of DHA. This child, like the vast majority of U.S. children, eats almost no Omega-3 fatty acids. What does the brain do?

Again, it struggles and finally uses other types of fats, which are the wrong shape. The neural network develops slowly and is defective. The child has learning and memory problems as well as behavior problems.

In a study of learning ability, rats were raised on either a diet that was deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids or one that was nutritionally complete. Initially, both groups of rats had similar numbers of synaptic vesicles.

After a month-long learning program, however, the Omega-3 enriched rats had considerably more vesicles in their nerve endings and also performed markedly better on the tests. This study suggests there may be a direct connection between the amount Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, the number of synaptic vesicles in your neurons, and your ability to learn."

Within the next 5 or 10 years the population at large will become familiar with the issue of fatty acid deficiency and the harm causes by transfats, and there will be significant changes in the way food is formulated and marketed.

In response to growing public pressure and the rising number of studies implicating transfats, the FDA has announced a new rule that will require the transfat content of foods, but it won't become effective for a few years.

Companies are beginning to market omega-3 foods, like tuna and eggs from chickens fed with high-omega 3 foods.

Babyfood companies like Gerber are talking about adding DHA to foods (meanwhile the same food still contains transfats). In Japan parents have been giving their kids DHA supplements for years to improve their grades.

Research has shown that the diets of hunter/gatherers were rich in Omega-3's. They ate a mix of meat, fruits and vegetables, with little or no grains. Green leafy vegetables, certain seeds and nuts, and wild game are rich in Omega-3's.

It turns out that cows, chickens and other animals have much higher levels of Omega-3s when they are fed by "free-range" methods because they eat lots of green leafy vegetables. On the other hand, if they are fed grain, their Omega-3 levels crash. Wild game is much healthier to eat and it is much leaner than farm-raised animals.

Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2001 Mar;3(2):174-9

You can not get beef that is fed by "free-range" methods, otherwise known as grass-fed beef at your local grocery store. The beef you will find there is low in Omega-3, and unhealthy to eat.

However you can now order grass-fed beef online at Grassfed Organics, and have it shipped to your door overnight.

 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

 

Omega three fats are essential to your health. You can certainly get them from cod liver oil or fish oil.

If you already have significant sun exposure then you should not take cod liver oil as you will run the risk of overdosing on vitamin D.

You should then take fish oil capsules. The standard fish oil capsule is 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg of DHA. You should take approximately one capsule for every ten pounds of body weight, preferably in two divided doses.

So if you weigh 160 pounds you would take 8 capsules twice a day. If you have problems with belching them up, you will want to consider taking them on an empty stomach.

Cod liver oil has the benefit of providing you with vitamin D and A. A reasonable dose for cod liver oil is one teaspoon for every 30-40 pounds of body weight. If you use cod liver oil during your summer you will need to be careful of vitamin D toxicity and I suggest you review the information on vitamin D testing.

When you take fish oil supplements or cod liver oil in the doses I recommend please be sure and take an one vitamin E 400 unit supplement per day as this will help serve to protect the fat from oxidation. This is less of an issue with the cod liver oil as the vitamin D itself is a very potent anti-oxidant.

You will also need extra amounts of the "fourth and unforgotten" oil soluble vitamin, vitamin K. If you are juicing plenty of green vegetables and taking the cod liver oil or fish oil with the juice you should absorb the vitamin K in the vegetable juice. However, if you have osteoporosis or osteopenia, you will want to consider adding an extra 1000 mcg ( 1 mg ) of vitamin K per day.

Generally our diet contains far to much omega 6 fats. Experts looking at the dietary ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids suggest that in early human history the ratio was about 1:1. Currently most Americans eat a dietary ratio that falls between 20:1 and 50:1. The optimal ratio is most likely closer to the original ratio of 1:1. For most of us this means greatly reducing the omega-6 fatty acids we consume and increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

Please recognize that we get ALL the omega-6 and omega-9 fat we need from food. We do NOT need to take any supplements for these fats. Many of the omega fat supplements you see in health food stores will only serve to worsen your health, not improve it as they contain omega 6 fats which will worsen your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.

I strongly recommend avoiding sunflower, corn, soy, safflower, canola, or products that contain these oils. That is no hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, no margarine, no vegetable oil, no shortening. These oils are chock full of omega-6 fats and will only worsen your omega 6:omega 3 ratio.

Acceptable oils will be a high quality extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, and organic butter, or better yet grass-fed organic butter.

Another way to improve your omega 6:3 ratio is to change the type of meat you are eating. You could consume more game meat like venison, or other game animals that are raised exclusively on grass type foods. However, these are hard to find and generally more expensive than beef.

Since nearly all cattle are grain fed before slaughter, if you eat most traditionally raised beef, it will typically worsen you omega 6:omega 3 ratio.

Normally a good ratio for omega 6:3 in fish is 2 or 3 to 1. The lower the better. Grassfed beef from Grassfed Organics is much higher in Omega 3 than fish, with a 6:3 ratio of 0.16 to 1. This information is from a study done at Iowa State University in August 2001.

To get the necessary Omega-3 fatty acids, you should consider eating meat that is allowed to "free-range", or in the case of cattle, to be grass-fed. Unfortunately, you cannot buy this grass-fed beef at your local grocery store.

You must also be careful as many stores will advertise grass-fed beef but it really isn't. They do this as ALL cattle are grass fed, but the key is what they are fed the months prior to being processed.

Most all cattle are shipped to giant feed lots and fed corn to fatten them up. You will need to call the person who actually grew the beef, NOT the store manager, to find out the truth.

The least expensive way to obtain authentic grass fed beef would be to find a farmer who is growing the beef who you can trust and buy a half a side of beef from him. This way you save the shipping and also receive a reduced rate on the meat.

An inexpensive, yet effective way to determine if the meat is really from a grass fed animal is to purchase the ground beef. Slowly cook the beef till done and drain and collect all the fat. Grass fed beef is very high in omega-3 fats and will be relatively thin compared to traditionally prepared ground beef.

It will also be a liquid at room temperature as it has very few saturated fats which are mostly solid at room temperature.

However, most of us live in large urban areas and do not have the time for this process. Just as it would be ideal to have an organic garden and grow your own vegetables, most of us elect not to do that for time or space reasons.

I used to have an organic garden, but my schedule just would not allow me to have that luxury anymore. So, if you are convinced, like I am, that grass-fed beef is better for you and you would like the convenience of being able to order it over the Net, you can buy grass-fed beef online, shipped overnight to your door, at Grassfed Organics.


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