Recent research findings continue to support the case that EPA and DHA Omega-3s – the omega-3s found in fish and fish oil – are an essential pillar of a properly balanced and healthy diet.
FDA Revises seafood intake during pregnancy – a study by the National Institute of Health (NIH) showed that a deficiency in Omega-3 of the mother’s diet during pregnancy is linked to a lower IQ of the child during later years of childhood. While many people believe that mercury content of fish is a big concern, in fact Omega-3 deficiency from not eating fish is a much larger and more severe dietary issue. Recent findings indicate that the benefit of getting enough omega-3 for both mother and child is far more important than the potential risk of consuming mercury. An infant needs DHA omega-3 to develop normally and it good for mothers, too. Many well-read dietitians and nutritionists have long known that the challenge is for mothers to get enough seafood, not to worry about them consuming too much!
In June of this year, as a result of a careful review of recent dietary research, the FDA and EPA updated its published guidelines for seafood intake during pregnancy. Instead of previous confusing recommendations that pregnant mothers limit seafood consumption to not more than 12 ounces per week, the FDA and EPA now recommendthat mothers eat at least two (and up to three) servings of fish per week during pregnancy for proper child development. In their official updated advice, FDA notes, “The nutritional value of fish is especially important during growth and development before birth, in early infancy for breastfed infants, and in childhood.”
EPA and DHA Omega-3s help lower blood pressure – In March, a landmark scientific review of over 70 randomized controlled trials that were designed to study blood pressure was published. The review found significant scientific agreement that consumption of over 2000mg of EPA and DHA Omega-3 per day was just as or more effective at lowering blood pressure as other common lifestyle interventions, such as limiting sodium, getting exercise, or limiting alcohol consumption. This is significant, since about 1 in 3 Americans have high blood pressure, and many don’t even know it. High blood pressure is a major contributor to heart disease.
Omega-3 consumption leads to Lower Healthcare costs – a recent study commissioned by the Council for Responsible Nutrition found that nearly 98,000 hospitalizations for heart disease events could be avoided for a combined net savings of $348.8 million per year. These cost savings would be realized simply with enough Omega-3 consumption via supplementation. This is supported by prior research conducted by Harvard School of Public Health researcher Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, which found that as little as 250mg of EPA and DHA Omega-3s per day would reduce the risk of sudden death due to a heart attack by 1/3 or 35%.
Heart disease is a major issue – it is the number one killer of both men and women. It is estimated that nearly 7% of all adults in the U.S. have heart disease about 1 of every 6 deaths in the US is due to heart disease. The risk sharply increases with age, as over 16% of those over age 55 have heart disease.
The US lags the rest of the developed world by not having a recommended daily intake for EPA and DHA Omega-3 –Research has exploded in the last decade and the National Institutes of Health are behind in setting recommendations. Most countries inEurope recommend atleast 250mg of EPA & DHA, and many suggest 500 mg EPA and DHA. Japan and Korea have recommended intakes as high as 2000mg/day of EPA and DHA Omega-3s. In the US, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends at least 500 mg of EPA and DHA per day for general health. The American Heart Association and American Psychiatric Association suggest 1000 mg per day of EPA and DHA for people with a history of heart disease or mood and impulse control problems.
The source of Omega-3s matters – Plant sources such as vegetable oils, nuts, and grains – like flax and chia seeds – deliver short chain omega-3s, which the body has difficulty efficiently transforming into the long-chain Omega-3s EPA and DHA. These short chain omega-3s just don’t work the same as premade EPA & DHA from fish, seafood, and fish oils. EPA and DHA Omega-3s from Marine sources are necessary for good mental health, heart health, healthy eyes and maintaining proper joint health
How do I get enough Omega-3s – food or supplements? Food is always the best source– eating oily fish delivers the best forms of Omega-3s, Vitamin D, as well as other nutrients such as iron, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and selenium. It is also a fantastic source of protein for building and maintaining healthy muscles.
However, many people do not like to eat fish, cannot afford to eat fish regularly, or do not have regular access to high quality fish which isn’t breaded and deep-fried. Unless you eat fish or take fish oil supplements every day, you are probably not getting enough Omega-3s in your diet. Thankfully, fish oil supplements can deliver affordable daily doses of EPA & DHA Omega-3s – a high quality supplement can deliver a meaningful amount for less than $1.00 per day. I try to eat fish several times a week, but I also make sure to take a fish oil supplement every day to fill in the gaps.
If you are planning to rely on eating fish to get all your omega-3s, the kind of fish eaten is very important: fatty ocean fish such as salmon and sardines have high levels of Omega-3s and some freshwater fish, like trout, have a good amount as well, but farmed tilapia, catfish or swai are fed lots of corn and soy and as a result have very little EPA and DHA Omega-3s. Pregnant women should avoid eating shark, swordfish, orange roughy, and eat not more than a can of albacore tuna a week.
Mankind grew up near the sea – civilization developed around eating fish and seafood. Omega-3 fats found in fish, seafood and fish oils. (good fats) are essential for your heart health, brain health, for managing your body’s natural inflammation process and most of all for prenatal and infant development. However you get your Omega-3s, make sure you are getting enough in your diet every day to realize their full potential for making a difference in your health and daily life for you and your family. Children need them, too.